Fulham faced Swansea City having won just one of their last five games after only picking up a point at Ashton Gate on Saturday. The Whites were keen to return to winning ways having lost some of the momentum generated by an excellent August but the Welsh outfit looked like formidable opposition, having reached the Championship play-offs in both of the last two seasons.
Marco Silva went with his usual 4-2-3-1 system, deploying Bobby Decordova-Reid behind Aleksandar Mitrovic, who had missed several stoppage time chances against Bristol City. When they were without the ball, Harrison Reed and Jean-Michael Seri occupied the conventional holding midfield roles filling possible passing lanes and reducing the gap between Fulham’s defence and midfield.
Swansea set up in a 3-4-3 formation, committing numbers high up the field to press Fulham in attempt to pinch possession in dangerous positions. The visitors looked to dominate the ball, patiently seeking out opportunities to exploit any weakness in the home defence. Russell Martin, impressive in his time at Milton Keynes, is the youngest manager in the English football pyramid and is implementing a fresh, possession-based style at the Liberty Stadium.
Martin’s adherence to his principles is admirable but Fulham went in front twelve minutes in the game when Tim Ream’s header found Aleksandar Mitrovic in the area and the Serbian slotted home after turning impressively. There was more than a whiff of offside about the goal, which suggested fortune had smiled on the Whites after Kasey Palmer’s equaliser at the weekend had been allowed to stand.
Fulham 2-0 Swansea City (Mitrovic 12)
Fulham’s second goal came from a slick counter attack which began with a smart interception from Joe Bryan inside his own half. The left back immediately burst forward, looking to exploit a five-on-four situation. Bryan heads inside, fixing Ben Cabnago on him, and opening up space for Neeskens Kebano outside him. Ideally, Ethan Laird would have been able to track the Congolese winger’s run but, after being caught upfield and with the speed and intensity of Fulham’s attack, the right wing back can’t get back into position.
Kebano has time to pick out a cross and there are three white shirts in the area against two Swansea defenders. Mitrovic makes a clever run from behind Naughton to get to the ball first. He finds the far corner that Ben Hamer can’t cover with a clever finish to a fine Fulham move.
Fulham 2-1 Swansea City (Paterson 38)
Swansea had seen plenty of the ball but barely created a chance before Flynn Downes found Joel Piroe just short of the halfway line. The pass into Piroe pulls Tosin Adarabioyo in with the Dutch forward, creating a dog leg in the Fulham back four with space for Swansea to exploit in behind. Seri and Reed are also drawn to the ball – making those gaps even greater.
A sharp turn from Piroe gets him away from all three and offering an angle to pass through to Paterson, who is goal side of Odoi. Tosin being so far out of the Fulham defensive line means that there is a massive space left open to be exploited.
Fulham 3-1 Swansea City (Mitrovic 45)
When Fulham had the ball in defensive areas, Swansea sought to press them really high up the pitch and steal possession in the Cottagers’ half. They had four men pushing high up the pitch but as soon as Ream works the ball to Seri and Fulham are behind the press, the visitors are on the back foot and Fulham can take advantage.
Once the ball gets to Decordova-Reid’s feet and he can turn and run at the Swansea defence, Bidwell is forced into the centre of the pitch. This is because Matt Grimes had been pressing close to the Fulham area, meaning the ex-QPR and Brentford full back gets drawn into trying to fill a gap in central midfield. That frees up space down the right flank for Odoi to gallop into and stretches the Swansea back three.
With Bidwell caught in the midfield and Odoi in plenty of space. Manning is forced to come across and press the Belgian. This, though, opens up space between Manning and Naughton for Odoi to put a cross into and Mitrovic to attack and the Serbian’s sublime first time finish wrapped up his hat trick.