Lee Bowyer was right to be worried. Fulham, fresh from rattling in thirteen goals in two matches last week, kept up their sensational rate of scoring by putting six past the Blues to stretch their lead at the top of the Championship table to five points.
The Blues were brave and dogged but once Marc Roberts put through his own net to give the Londoners the lead, it felt only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. The Whites scored three in eight minutes to give themselves a scarcely believable lead before half-time, with the only black mark being Ivan Sunjic’s superb curler that beat Marek Rodak right on the interval. Gary Gardner’s glorious low drive threatened to bring Birmingham back in it – but that only served to anger the hosts, who added late strikes from Fabio Carvalho and Antonee Robinson to underline their superiority.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of another resounding victory was the fact that Fulham ran riot without Aleksandar Mitrovic’s name appearing on scoresheet. The Serbian’s presence certainly prompted Roberts to try and touch a low cross from Harry Wilson away from danger in the tenth minute. It only flew past the unfortunate former Fulham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge – but on the whole the visiting defence dealt with Mitrovic as well as any else has during his sensational scoring season. But Marco Silva’s men are far from a one-man team: and they set about proving it after a tight half an hour where they only had a couple of blocked shots from Tom Cairney and Wilson to show for their dominance.
The crucial second arrived ten minutes before half time through a purposeful period of Fulham passing. Tosin Adarabioyo spread the ball out wide to Wilson and the Welsh winger fed the onrushing Odoi, whose low cross was clinically converted by Neeskens Kebano. Three minutes later and it was three. Robinson raced down the left and lifted a cross towards the near post where young Fabio Carvalho climbed majestically and glanced a deft header into the far corner.
Suddenly, it felt like Fulham could score at any moment. A mesmorising move comprising of patient passing saw Silva’s side add another that could have come from the Portuguese’ coaching manual. They kept the ball with a series of immaculate passes in the final third before Wilson wandered across the field and spread the play to Kebano in the inside left position. The Congolese winger darted inside and slid a low cut back towards the centre of the box. Carvalho slipped a shot pass into Tom Cairney, who lashed a lovely finish into the far corner.
Sunjic produced a peach of a response for Birmingham, with his curling effort from 20 yards carrying too much power for Rodak, and to their immense credit, Bowyer’s men were even more adventurous in the second half. After Etheridge had held a drive from Carvalho, Birmingham pushed men forward and Lukas Jutkiewicz tested Rodak after fashioning a chance for himself on the edge of the box with a clever turn. Harrison Reed was fortunate to receive only a booking after a late lunge at Gary Gardner and while Fulham took a breather, the visitors pressed higher up the field and got their rewards. When Gary Gardner produced an unerring low finish after Ornel Hernadez and Kristian Pedersen had pinched possession off Nathaniel Chalobah, their loud travelling supporters might have been dreaming of an unlikely comeback.
Those hopes were snuffed out almost immediately by Carvalho, who produced another fine finish to make it five. Two Fulham substitutes, Bobby Decordova-Reid and Chalobah were instrumental in the build up before the teenager cut inside and stroked home his second of the evening from just outside the box. Blues kept on playing – with an impressive cameo from young substitute Jordan James and Ryan Woods testing Rodak’s athleticism – but the hosts hit six for the second time in four days when Robinson rifled home Josh Onomah’s pass to put the gloss on another unforgettable evening at Craven Cottage.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Odoi, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed (Onomah 81), Cairney (Chalobah 69); Wilson, Kebano (Decordova-Reid 69), Carvalho; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Mawson, Muniz.
GOAL: Roberts (o.g. 10), Kebano (35), Carvalho (38, 75), Cairney (43), Robinson (90+3).
BIRMINGHAM CITY (3-5-2): Etheridge; Mengi, Roberts (Friend 64), Pedersen; Colin, Bela, Sunjic, Woods, Gardner; Jutkiewicz (Hogan 64), Hernandez (James 82). Subs (not used): Trueman, Masampu, Bellingham, Campbell.
GOAL: Sunjic (45), Gardner (74).
REFEREE: Gavin Ward (Surrey).