A headed brace from Aleksandar Mitrovic helped Fulham finish their pre-season tour of Portugal in style as the Whites eased past Marco Silva’s old club Estoril this evening. The Serbian striker nodded home twice in the space of five first half from two excellent corners to give the Premier League new boys a comfortable cushion and Fulham firmly banished the bad memories of last weekend’s battering at the hands of Benfica when Joao Palhinha powered home his first goal for the Whites from a Mitrovic lay-off to make it 3-0 after just 24 minutes.
Estoril, who presented Silva with a replica club shirt in the centre circle before kick off in recognition of his outstanding achievements here in his first managerial job, did get a goal back from the penalty spot eight minutes later. Tim Ream’s clumsy challenge on overlapping right back Tiago Santos allowed Andre Franco to send Marek Rodak the wrong way from twelve yards but, although the hosts enjoyed a couple of strong spells in the second period, Fulham never looked like relinquishing their commanding lead.
Mitrovic, who had glanced in a fine Andreas Pereira delivery to score a consolation goal against Benfica last Sunday, was almost unstoppable throughout. Fulham’s number nine, looking lean and in the mood to pick up where he had left off in May with a 43rd goal of the Championship campaign, took just seven minutes to open his account. Pereira, lively again in the number ten role, sent in the perfect outswinger for Mitrovic to head into the corner after he had climbed above the home defence. He was at again at the far post five minutes later nodding in from a Harry Wilson corner this time and Mitrovic was only denied a hat-trick inside the opening quarter of an hour by a desperate defensive block as he looked certain to score after encouraging link-up play with Pereira.
Instead, Mitrovic turned down provider – teeing up Palhinha for a fine finish from around 22 yards after Antonee Robinson had raced down the left flank. Wilson was denied a fourth by a debatable offside flag and Fulham’s defensive frailties were laid bare when the experienced Ream went flying into a tackle in the penalty area and caught more of Tiago Santos than the ball. Franco easily dispatched the ensuing spot-kick to take a touch of the gloss off an outstanding first 45 minutes.
Mitrovic might easily have completed another hat-trick in the second half – first forcing a fine save from Dani when he headed a Wilson free-kick down into the ground and then when his majestic volley flew fractionally wide after Wilson’s cross was only half cleared by Vital. A succession of substitutions then saw the game lose both its cohesion and tempo – something which seemed to suit Estoril. Fulham became sloppy at the back, with Arthur lifting a lob over Rodak and the crossbar after the Fulham goalkeeper and Ream got themselves into trouble and Rodri shooting wide after being played in by a poor backpass from Tyrese Francois.
Silva would have found far more positives to take from those encounter than the thrashing at the hands of Benfica last week. Palhinha and Harrison Reed worked well as a pair of deep-lying midfielders and, aside from Mitrovic’s deadliness inside the six-yard box, there were eye-catching displays from Pereira and Wilson. There is still plenty to work on ahead of the big kick off but it is likely that Fulham will have Kevin Mbabu to pick from against Villarreal in the final friendly next Sunday after the Swiss international passed his medical earlier today.
ESTORIL (4-3-3): Dani; Tiago Santos, Vital, Pedro Alvaro, Araújo; Geraldes, Rosier Franco; Martins, Arthur, Joao Carlos. Subs: Thiago, Joao Oliveira, Goncalo Esteves, Martim Filipe, Volnei, Mor Ndiaye, Lea Siliki, Duarte Carvalho, Titouan Thomas, Serginho, Elias, Ruiz, Gilson.
GOAL: Franco (pen 33).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak, Tete, A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Palhinha (Chalobah 74), Reed (Francois 74); Wilson, Decordova-Reid (Harris 74), Pereira (Stansfield 66); Mitrovic (Muniz 74). Subs (not used): Gazzaniga, Wickens, Fossey, McAvoy, Odutayo, Pajaziti, Cairney, Kebano, Jasper, Tiehi.
BOOKED: Mitrovic, Chalobah.
GOALS: Mitrovic (7, 12), Palhinha (24).