It is measure of the high standards that Marco Silva sets his sides that Fulham cantered to a commanding victory over Hull City at Craven Cottage – their third win in a week – and moved to the top of the Championship table, but the Portuguese head coach spent a significant portion of his post-match press conference discussing what the Whites might do better. The home side’s adventure and energy established a two-goal cushion within thirty five first half minutes with the deadly duo of Aleksandar Mitrovic and Fabio Carvalho on the scoresheet again, surviving the loss of two members of their back four through injury to record a first clean sheet.
Fulham were on the front foot from the off, but this was more of a workmanlike performance that the ones that saw the Cottagers cruise past Huddersfield and Millwall in the last seven days. Silva had opted to go with an unchanged side from the one that triumphed at the New Den on Tuesday and the hosts benefited from the precise passing of Jean Michael Seri and the drive of Josh Onomah in the centre of midfield – with a partnership that would have been perceived as preposterous earlier in the month taking control of the engine room.
Silva’s side started dynamically with Antonee Robinson raiding down the left and seeing a decent delivery diverted away from Mitrovic by Jacob Greaves only for Onomah to drag a first time volley a few yards wide from outside the box. It was the visitors who registered the first effort on target after Greg Docherty advanced on goal and let fly from 25 yards, with Paulo Gazzaniga beating away the swerving shot. Northern Ireland international Josh Magennis drew a routine save from the Argentinian when he met a Randall Williams cross from the right after a well-worked Hull move and that seemed to spark Fulham into life.
They were forced into an early reshuffle at the heart of their defence when captain Tim Ream, so impressive at the start of this season, was forced off having jarred his back when landing awkwardly after winning a header. Alfie Mawson made an impressive first start of the season – looking imperious in the air himself – and the Whites took the lead as the centre half run forward for a corner after replacing Ream. Mitrovic glanced a trademark header in off the far post from a fine Seri delivery – with Hull furious that Greaves had been blocked off in the centre of the box.
A second enforced change saw Bobby Decordova-Reid step into the right back role he had first assumed under Scott Parker when Kenny Tete pulled up with hamstring trouble, but it didn’t dent Fulham’s rhythm. They responded in the best possible manner after Keane Lewis-Potter had curled a speculative shot wide from the edge of the box, with Robinson racing down the left to pick out Carvalho, who touched it away from Di’Shon Bernard and found the far corner with consummate ease to register his third goal in as many matches.
Fulham had chances to go in at half-time with an even more substantial advantage. Ivan Cavaleiro sliced wide after being played in by the peerless Carvalho and Tosin Adarabioyo stung Ingram’s palms with a venomous drive from distance after space had opened up and the Hammersmith End urged the centre back to pull the trigger. The Hull goalkeeper, overworked as the first half came to close, also did well to keep out Mitrovic’s deflected strike as Fulham finished in the ascendency.
Grant McCann introduced Josh Emmanuel for Williams at half-time and Hull began the second period brightly penning Fulham back for a while with some patient passing. Purposeful runs from Docherty and Callum Elder, after an untimely slip from Neeskens Kebano, promised much but the visitors’ final ball was lacking. Mitrovic passed up a glorious chance when he headed Robinson’s excellent cross wide of the far post and Ingram then pushed away a Seri strike from outside the box.
Carvalho, who buzzed around to brilliant effect belying his teenage years was again, was withdrawn as a precaution after twisting his ankle following a late challenge by Richard Smallwood, who had struggled to contain the precocious talent all afternoon. Mitrovic went close to grabbing a second on a couple of occasions in the closing stages – once after an imposing run from Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa – but had a late low drive that looked destined for the corner blocked. There was a stoppage time scare when Gazzaniga spilled a Lewie Coyle cross close to Magennis, but the shaky goalkeeper’s blushes were spared.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Tete (Decordova-Reid 32), Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream (Mawson 21); Seri, Onomah; Kebano, Cavaleiro, Carvalho (Anguissa 70); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rodak, Bryan, Francois, Stansfield.
BOOKED: Robinson, Cavaleiro, Adarabioyo.
GOALS: Mitrovic (22), Carvalho (34).
HULL CITY (4-2-3-1): Ingram; Coyle, Elder, Bernard, Greaves; Smallwood (Eaves 77), Smith; Williams (Emmanuel 45), Lewis-Potter, Docherty (Cannon 86); Magennis. Subs (not used): Baxter, McLoughlin, Huddlestone, Jarvis.
BOOKED: Smallwood, Bernard.
REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).