Rodrigo Muniz missed the decisive spot-kick as Fulham went out out of the League Cup on penalties having held Premier League Leeds United to a creditable goalless draw after ninety minutes at Craven Cottage tonight.
The Brazilian striker saw his spot-kick saved by Illan Meslier as the home side were beaten 6-5 on penalties after an entertaining goalless draw. Josh Onomah struck the bar with Fulham’s first penalty of the shoot out and Joe Bryan blazed over the bar but Marek Rodak saved from Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw ballooned his spot-kick before Meslier sprung to his left to deny Muniz and send the top flight side into round four.
Marco Silva had promised rotation after the defeat by Reading at the weekend and the Fulham boss was as good as his word but his side had a more experienced look about it than we might have had reason to expect. Barring Muniz, a goalscorer on his home debut on Saturday, and Domingos Quina this starting eleven had contained nine of the promotion winners from Scott Parker’s first season in charge. Cyrus Christie came in from the cold at right back, Alfie Mawson donned the captain’s armband and Anthony Knockaert and Neeskens Kebano were afforded a chance to impress out wide. Marcelo Bielsa fielded probably his strongest possible side, although Kalvin Phillips lined up alongside teenager Charlie Creswell at centre back.
Fulham began brightly and Muniz almost had another headed goal inside the first couple of minutes. Kebano delivered a deep cross to the back post where the Brazilian had crept in unattended, but this time his downward header bounced up and over the bar. The former Flamengo forward then played in Quina only for Creswell to produce a vital block in the nick of time before turning turning Phillips inside out after latching onto Joe Bryan’s ball but Meslier pushed away the shot.
Leeds were adventurous as well. They should have gone in front from their first incisive attack when a poor ball from Josh Onomah fell to Crysencio Summerville and the Dutch midfielder drove deep into Fulham territory before feeding Tyler Roberts. The Welsh forward was forced wide and, although Rodak saved well from his shot, Rodrigo looked destined to score from the rebound but somehow contrived to miss an open goal. The visitors’ sweeping diagonal balls were causing particular problems for the Fulham defence and, after a succession of corners, a Phillips attempt from the edge of the box was bravely blocked by Harrison Reed.
The Premier League side were now beginning to assert themselves on the contest. A glorious one-two between Klich and Rodrigo sent the Brazilian clean through on goal but he screwed the shot wide from twelve yards out. Fulham threatened briefly at the other end with a rasping Onomah drive initially escaping Meslier’s grasp but the Leeds goalkeeper recovered to smother the ball before Muniz could reach the rebound. Leeds finished on the front foot with Roberts racing into the box after being released by a clever Stuart Dallas pass but Rodak made a smart save from the angle. The home goalkeeper reacted well to keep out a low Rodrigo free-kick that he would have saw late, before Kebano brought an even better save out of Meslier from a similar position at the other end just before the break.
The dangerous Dan James created the first opening of the second half with a surging run through the middle of the park, but Michael Hector’s timely saving challenge thwarted Rodrigo just as he was about to strike for goal. Bielsa then sent on Adam Forshaw to fill the holding role at the base of the Leeds midfield. The second period was more attritional than what proceeded it with the home side’s clearest chance coming when an enterprising run from centre half by Alfie Mawson located Kebano out wide and Muniz header over from the Congolese winger’s cross. The 20 year-old, who looked lively on his first Fulham start, climbed highest to guide a header just over the bar from a Knockaert free kick.
Silva freshened up side by sending on Ivan Cavaleiro and Decordova-Reid in the last quarter and they almost took the lead with fifteen minutes to play. Onomah motored through the middle of the park and, with space opening up in front of him, went for goal from 30 yards and Meslier made a fine fingertip save. Fulham were forced into a late alteration after Reed felt his hamstring after clattering into the advertising hoardings as he tried to block a Leeds cross with Michael Hector moving into midfield after Tosin Adarabioyo came off the bench.
The home side looked the stronger in the closing stages. Muniz soared above Creswell to reach a Decordova-Reid cross six yards out but he couldn’t keep the header down. Decordova-Reid than snatched a volley from the edge of the area after Forshaw had headed away a Fulham corner and the shot drifted harmlessly wide as penalties loomed. Hector drilled one optimistically wide from distance in the first minute of stoppage but Leeds, who had been hanging on, came closest to nicking a late winner when Creswell headed on a late free-kick but Rodrigo couldn’t get a touch at the back post. In a thrilling finale, Muniz lashed over when found by a Cavaleiro cross and Adarabioyo brilliantly blocked Junior Firpo’s drive at the last.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Christie, Bryan, Hector, Mawson; Reed (Adarabioyo 83), Onomah, Knockaert (Cavaleiro 71), Kebano, Quina (Decordova-Reid 71), Muniz. Subs (not used): T. Ashby-Hammond, Fossey, O’Neill, Stansfield.
LEEDS UNITED (4-2-3-1): Meslier; Dallas, Firpo, Cresswell, Phillips; Shackleton, Klich (Gelhardt 69); Summerville (McKinstry 75), James, Rodrigo; Roberts (Forshaw 55). Subs (not used): Klaesson, Drameh, Hjelde, Greenwood.
REFEREE: Tim Robinson (West Sussex).