After an encouraging display by a youthful Fulham outfit against Nice last night, this evening provided a reality check for Marco Silva and the club’s hierarchy. The Whites, fielding a much less experimental side, were cut to pieces by a Benfica side that played the more fluent and incisive football losing their second match of the Algarve Trophy 5-1. It was a chastening evening in the stifling heat, with Fulham committing a host of defensive errors, and looking far too open against last season’s Champions’ League quarter finalists. There is plenty of work to do done before the start of the Premier League campaign – or Liverpool’s visit to Craven Cottage could be very embarrassing.
Silva’s side were behind after only three minutes in front of a far more partisan crowd than the one that watched the Whites comfortably deal with whatever Nice threw at them on Saturday. Kenny Tete, who endured a torrid evening at right back, lost the ball to Enzo and Joao Mario raced along the left flank. His low cross couldn’t be converted by Goncalo Ramos but the ball broke to Rafa who found the bottom corner with a precise finish.
Andreas Pereira and Tom Cairney had sights of goal for Fulham, but the Portuguese side were dominating possession and carving out plenty of chances. They doubled their lead with a simple goal from a set play after twenty minutes. Joao Mario swung over a left-wing corner and Goncalo Ramos outjumped Tete at the near post to glance in a second past Paolo Gazzaniga from six yards out. Eight minutes later and the forward added another after arriving at the far post to finish a flowing move started by Neres that culminated Rafa’s precise cross being rifled home.
Fulham looked at sixes and sevens at the back, with Tete out of position again for the third goal, and it was with some relief that the Whites could regroup at half time only 3-0 down. Benfica made ten changes at the break, but the pattern of proceedings remained largely unchanged. Gazzaniga spread himself well to thwart Henrique Araujo, whilst a rare Fulham raid saw Harry Wilson, comfortably the Cottagers’ biggest threat, and Bobby Decordova-Reid combine to tee up Aleksandar Mitrovic, who dragged a shot past the near post from just outside the box.
Benfica went down the other end and made it four with Ukrainian striker Roman Yaremchuk peeling off Tosin Adarabioyo to head Julian Weigl’s lovely weighted cross into an almost unguarded net. Fulham hit back within four minutes when Mitrovic nodded in an excellent corner from Pereira, but that consolation was merely a temporary respite for Silva’s overwhelmed side. Alexander Bah dispossessed Joe Bryan after the left back was played into trouble by Adarabioyo and Araujo was on hand to roll in the resulting low centre.
It could have been even worse for Fulham. Gazzaniga denied Araujo with a smart save before Diego Moreira somehow contrived to smack a finish against the crossbar when it appeared easier to score after Yaremchuk had laid on an open goal for the left winger. WIlson, incensed earlier not to be given a clear penalty when he was sent flying in the area, was rebuffed by a good save by Odysseas as the Welsh winger went clean through on goal – but it probably accurately reflected a maddening night on the Algarve for the Londoners.
BENFICA: Odysseas; Gilberto (Bah 45), Otamendi (Antonio Silva 45), Morato (Vertonghen 45), Grimaldo (Gil Dias 45); Florentino Luis (Weigl 45), Enzo (Neto 45), Joao Mario (Moreira Jr. 45); Rafa (Araujo 45), Neres (Chiquinho 45), Goncalo Ramos (Yaremchuk 45). Subs (not used): Soares, Kokubo, Andre Gomes.
GOALS: Rafa (3), Goncalo Ramos (21, 29), Yaremchuk (57), Araujo (64).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Tete, Bryan (A. Robinson 65), Adarabioyo, Ream; Palhinha (Kebano 85), Cairney (Stansfield 77); Wilson, Decordova-Reid (Chalobah 87), Pereira; Mitrovic (Francois 77). Subs (not used): Rodak, Wickens, Fossey, McAvoy, Odutayo, Reed, Pajaziti, Harris, Jasper, Tiehi, Muniz.
GOAL: Mitrovic (61).
REFEREE: Nuno Almeida.