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).