For the best part of 42 minutes, this was an intriguing contest. Just as at Craven Cottage earlier in the season, when Russell Martin’s Swansea reign was in its infancy, the Welsh outfit saw most of the ball and their patient, probing, possession-based style was causing the league leaders problems. Fulham still carved out a couple of good openings – and Aleksandar Mitrovic might have felt he should have put them ahead with a couple of headers – but the game was finely balanced. Then, a wild lunge from Ryan Manning on Harry Wilson utterly altered its complexion. Swansea were incensed the ex-QPR midfielder was shown a straight red by Australian referee Jarred Gillett, but it was a late and dangerous tackle from which the hosts never recovered.
It took just sixteen seconds after the interval for Fulham to go in front. To some degree, Swansea were the architects of their own downfall here as well. Andy Fisher tried a cute chipped out from the back that played Matt Grimes into trouble and Harrison Reed swooped, slipping the ball across for Harry Wilson, whose low cross was turned home clinically by Aleksandar Mitrovic for the Serbian’s 35th goal of the season. Immediately, the floodgates appeared to have opened. Mitrovic might have doubled the advantage from a Fabio Carvalho cutback but was denied by Fisher’s feet. Marco Silva’s side didn’t have to wait long for more.
A second arrived courtesy of the unfortunate Ben Cabango, who got the final touch into his own net, but it owed everything to Reed’s endeavour. The ginger-haired midfielder found space out wide, surged down the right flank and supplied an inviting low cross that Cabango was desperate to clear, succeeding only in compounding Swansea’s woes. The lively Neeskens Kebano threatened to make it three, with some silky footwork to find half a yard in the area after latching onto a Carvalho pass, only for Fisher to save at the near post.
The result wasn’t in doubt after that – even if Jamie Patterson whistled a drive fractionally wide from a long way out. Silva sent on Bobby Decordova-Reid and Ivan Cavaleiro. The latter almost announced his arrival with an angled effort from the edge of the box that flashed a couple of yards wide of the near post, before Decordova-Reid – booed because of his Cardiff connections – went one better. The substitute headed home from a couple of yards out after Wilson had nodded Mitrovic’s cross back across goal.
Even the soft concession of a consolation to Joel Piroe, who stole ahead of Tosin Adarabioyo at a corner to glance in his sixteenth of the season, didn’t dampen Fulham’s sense of adventure. Neco Williams, so close to breaking his club goalscoring duck with that audacious effort from the halfway line on Saturday, fired in his first Fulham goal after intercepting a poor pass out of the box and rampaging along the right. He was alert enough to follow up after Decordova-Reid’s initial shot had been blocked – and it got better for the Welsh full back. Williams was able to add another with a sensational strike from outside the box into the corner having capitalised on more cheap surrendering of possession from the hosts.
The ease with which Fulham romped to victory contrasted with a first half where Swansea looked like giving Silva’s side a serious run for the money. In the absence of Cyrus Christie against his parent club, Martin had switched to a back four but they pressed the visitors high up the field and were adept at bypassing Fulham’s defensive structure in the early stages, with Patterson getting into a couple of promising positions without reward. The winger’s dangerous free-kick bounced off a couple of Fulham players and dribbled to safety before Marek Rodak tipped over a rising drive from the in-form Michael Obafemi.
Fulham still fashioned openings of their own. Mitrovic headed a yard over after being found by a floated Williams delivery and, just before the break, the Serbian nodded millimetres wide of the far post from a lovely looping cross by Reed. Manning’s moment of madness gave Fulham their opportunity to escape from Swansea’s suffocating intensity and Silva’s side ruthlessly exploited their numerical advantage after the interval. The Whites are now a preposterous fourteen points clear at the top of the Championship after Bournemouth could only draw with bottom of the table Peterborough. Playing like this a return to the top flight could be only a few games away.
SWANSEA CITY (4-4-1-1): Fisher; Smith, Cabango, Naughton, Manning; Downes (Fulton 45), Grimes, Ntcham (Bennett 45), Paterson; Piroe; Obafemi (Joseph 60). Subs (not used): Hamer, Burns, Latibeaudiere, Congreve.
SENT OFF: Manning (42).
GOAL: Piroe (75).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; N. Williams, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed, Seri (Cairney 76); Wilson, Kebano (Decordova-Reid 68), Carvalho (Cavaleiro 68); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Tete, Hector, Chalobah.
GOALS: Mitrovic (46), Cabango (o.g. 52), Decordova-Reid (73), N. Williams (77, 85).
REFEREE: Jarred Gillett (Australia).