Fulham’s under 21s won the first game of their pre-season tour of Portugal this afternoon as the young Whites edged a five-goal thriller against SC Braga thanks to goals from Matt Dibley-Dias, new signing Callum McFarlane and striker Olly Sanderson.
With kick off in Faro delayed due to sweltering temperatures, Steve Wigley’s side almost fell behind in the extremely early stages when an audacious long-range chip had Michael Allen backpeddling anxiously. The visitors did quickly gain the upper hand in the contest, with their crisp and confident passing opening up the Portuguese defence. Fulham went ahead in the eight minute when captain Ollie O’Neill teeing up Dibley-Dias after McFarlane had won possession in midfield. Dibley-Dias’ shot took a deflection and gave a stranded goalkeeper little chance.
Charlie Robinson, last season’s Premier League 2 scholar of the day, then displayed the defensive anticipation that made him an immediate fixture in Wigley’s side by identifying immediate danger and blocking a Braga shot that threatened the Fulham goal. McFarlane battered an effort against the bottom of the post and Welsh full-back Jay Williams was then denied by a smart save.
Braga equalised on the half hour mark – with the officials apparently oblivious to the goalscorer being yards offside – but the visitors showed commendable character to restore their advantage before the break. Having previously set up McFarlane for a header that was saved, O’Neill delivered another superb ball in and the young striker picked his spot impressively to make it a dream debut in the white shirt.
Martial Godo and Kristian Šekularac, a summer signing from Juventus, spurned good opportunities to put Fulham further ahead after the interval but Sanderson, on a substitute, made no mistake with an unerring finish to make it 3-1. Braga did pull a goal back with eight minutes to play through a fine move and only a splendid stop from Alex Borto ensured Fulham held on for victory.
The under 21s face Rio Avenue B on Saturday in their second match of the tour.
FULHAM UNDER 21s: Allen; Tanton, Araujo, Bowat, C. Robinson; J. Williams; Dibley-Dias, Šekularac; O’Neill, Godo, McFarlane. Subs: Borto, Parkes, Larkeche, D’Auria-Henry, Lanquedoc, Okkas, Sanderson.