Aleksandar Mitrovic grabbed a late equaliser as Fulham completed their pre-season programme with a 1-1 draw against Spanish side Villarreal at Craven Cottage this afternoon. Summer signing Kevin Mbabu made an immediate impression – barely a minute after stepping off the bench he stormed along the right flank and, after getting to the byline, delivered a low cross that the Serbian striker gleefully converted from inside the six-yard box.
Mitrovic’s moment of ruthlessness contrasted sharply with Marco Silva’s side’s failure to score goals when they were on top. In their final friendly before the visit of Liverpool to SW6 next weekend, the Whites began at breakneck speed. Andreas Pereira smashed a shot into the face of Raul Albiol in the very first minute before Bobby Decordova-Reid slashed a shot wide after seizing on a defensive mistake. Neeskens Kebano was denied what looked like a clear penalty when he was sent tumbling by Pervis Estupinan, but referee John Brooks saw nothing wrong.
The hosts then went close twice in quick succession. A low Kenny Tete cross completely befuddled Geronimo Rulli but also caught Decordova-Reid totally by surprise before a ball in from the left from Kebano might have been turned in his own net by Foyth and Decordova-Reid again failed to finish a move off. With the Whites enjoying arguably their strongest spell of the afternoon, they were soon punished for failing to take their chances,
Villarreal went ahead ten minutes before the break thanks to strong wing play by Samuel Chukwueze after Tosin Adarabioyo had gifted the Yellow Submarine possession. The Nigerian winger made good progress along the right flank and, when Tim Ream was only able to head the ball up rather than out of danger, Dani Parejo – once of QPR – rifled home a fine finish from the edge of the box. With little else to cheer, the Hammersmith End enjoyed barracking Rulli after he milked a clash with Mitrovic and remained prone on the floor for a while.
It was Villarreal who came out strongly after half time. Parejo almost added a second with a lovely curler but his audacious effort clipped the top of the bar. That seemed to galvanise Fulham, with Mitrovic somehow failing to find a rapid response from Decordova-Reid’s delivery with the Serbian striker somehow striking the crossbar despite being in front of the goal a few yards out. The hosts began to press for an equaliser with a beautiful switch of play from Joao Palhinha released Decordova-Reid on the right, but the winger’s shot was wayward.
Silva finally shuffled his pack with the Cottage getting a first glimpse of Luke Harris as well as Jay Stansfield. The latter added a zest that had been missing from Fulham’s attack, even if he was often popping up on the right flank. Stansfield was only denied a sight of goal by a cynical challenge, whilst Luke Harris was trusted to replace Pereira in the number ten role. The missing piece of the jigsaw proved to be Mbabu, who cut a low ball back from the byline, allowing Mitrovic to finish with the modicum of fuss. A poacher’s finish might have levelled this friendly up – but there remains plenty to be done to be competitive.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete (Mbabu 83), A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Palhinha, Reed; Decordova-Reid, Kebano (Harris 61), Pereira (Cairney 83); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Wickens, Fossey, Odutayo, McAvoy, Francois, Muniz.
BOOKED: Kebano, Mitrovic.
GOAL: Mitrovic (84).
VILLARREAL C.F. (4-3–3): Rulli; Foyth (Kiko Fermenia 76), Estupiñán (Pedraza 76), Albiol, Cuenca; Coquelin (Capoue 67), Carlo Adriano (Morlanes 67), Parejo (Álex Baena 67); Chukwueze (Yeremy Pino 67), Morales (Jackson 45), Dia (Fer Niño 45; Moreno 76). Subs (not used): Reina, P. Torres, Mandi, De la Fuenta, Casaro.
BOOKED: Foyth, Albiol.
GOAL: Parejo (34).
REFEREE: John Brooks (Leicestershire).
The most important thing to come out of this encounter has to be the post-match presser when Marco Silva finally came clean and confirmed all the rumours-namely that he had discussed and confirmed with the hierarchy, once promotion had been sealed, that he would return to pre-season training (or, at worst, by the second week of pre-season training) with TEN new players.
So thank you to Marco for going public with what we already feared to be true.
He somehow managed to convey his feelings without rancour and in a well spoken way in direct contrast with the garbled English and negative body language used by Scott Parker at Bournemouth when delivering the same message the previous day.
Bottom line though is that the hierarchy HAVEN’T delivered on those requirements and we have a right to know why.
Silva intimated that Alistair Mackintosh is heavily involved in negotiations -then has to update T.Khan in US -then go back to the table with Khan’s instructions -then back to Khan with the selling team’s response etc etc etc
Not exactly inspiring is it?
What makes it even worse is the fact that Silva also indicated that new arrivals need 4-5 weeks to integrate properly which suggests that, even if we do get players in this coming week, it will be a while before they can have any impact.
I’m not sure that is entirely true judging by the brief cameo that Mbabu made against Villarreal but it certainly begs the question of whether Solomon will start against Liverpool having, according to Marco, only played one game -for Israel- in the last 8 months.
With Harry Wilson also confirmed with a serious knee injury our needs are now even greater.
As for the game itself, it served only to confirm that the famed Jedi has not improved in the slightest-making the occasional surging run only to trip over his own feet or fail with the final ball, losing possession (a euphemism for kicking the ball to an opponent) far too often.
Decordova Reid was one of the hardest working players on the pitch-yet managed to produce just one telling cross (from which Mitro struck the crossbar), had a clear shot at goal from the edge of the box and couldn’t hit the target, had another opportunity from a brilliant run and cross from Kebano (the only worthwhile thing Neeskens did all game) but, somehow, managed not to convert even though he was virtually on the goal line, had a second half shot that ended up in Row Z of the Putney End; just not good enough.
Pereira started promisingly, looking skilful and mobile on the ball and chasing lost causes off it but faded significantly.
Palhinho, playing well within himself, needs to assert himself much more but looked competent and adept at breaking up attacks.
I believe these two will improve significantly.
Serious concerns about anything happening to Mitro -be it suspension, injury or loss of form. He was booked in this match, risked a sending off because of the pathetic sham agony displayed by the Argentinian goalkeeper-not because Mitro had actually struck him but because Mitro then waited in the tunnel at half time to sort him out. Love his attitude but we just can’t afford to lose him for any length of time.
Final word for the youngsters: great to see them introduced and well done for their full on approach. They give us hope for the future.
However, right now, in the present, we are SERIOUSLY short of depth and something HAS to be done asap and an explanation given as to why we find ourselves, yet again, in this predicament.
Come on Marco Silva’s Black and White Army ! Out numbered Out Classed at Start of Season But Lets Place Hope in Marco and the Team …. They deserve it . Lets get behind the likes of Kebano and BDR … Tim Ream and keep the pressure on TK … gone AWOL ! COYW
What was the attendance of the game?
It’s more than a pity what is happening at the club it is criminal. The guys thay are still here are OK and with the help of some youngsters and new additions the game yesterday was good. However you cannot do a season with no squad depth. Take Harry Wilsons injury just as an example. No club can survive the way we are going about adding supplements to the squad. Marco does very well with what he’s got but at least give him a chance. If none of the players available for purchase by other teams are to be used then we do need 5 to 7 more players. The good news from yesterday was in impact that Jay and Luke had on the attack.