The fickle finger of fate often swings around on the footballers in the blink of an eye. Last week, Aleksandar Mitrovic was the toast of Hammersmith and Fulham for his finest performance in a Fulham shirt where he utterly humiliated Virgil van Dijk during a vintage of example of modern forward play – grabbing a brace as Marco Silva’s side took a creditable point on the opening day of the Premier League season against Liverpool. Seven days later, the Serbian striker stumbled from the penalty spot when presented with the chance to clinch Fulham’s first league win at Molineux since April 1986 – and Mitrovic was fortunate not to be sent off for losing his cool in a clash with Morgan Gibbs-White as time ticked away.
Once again, the immediate emotion after the final whistle was one of deflation for Fulham after having to settle for a point that could so easily have been three. Mitrovic’s remarkable goalscoring return since arriving in SW6 from Newcastle in 2018 leaves him plenty of credit in the bank – but his poor penalty aimed at the opposite corner from the one that beat Allison last weekend was smartly saved by Jose Sa. Fulham had fleeting moments in attack on a sweltering afternoon in the West Midlands, but most impressive was how hard to break down the visitors were without the ball: with a defensive discipline that meant Marek Rodak only had a single shot to save.
It looked like being a testing afternoon for the Slovakian international, once again preferred to summer signing Bernd Leno in goal, when Wolves carved out two clear cut chances in the first five minutes. Rodak spread himself to thwart Pedro Neto after Daniel Podence had played the winger in between the visiting back line and was called upon again to deny Hwang Hee-chan from another Podence through ball. Fulham settled quickly afterwards and created a chance from their first sweeping move along the left flank with the excellent Antonee Robinson involved alongside Neeskens Kebano but Mitrovic blazed well over from sixteen yards.
The Whites took heart from the way they had opened up their hosts and Wolves were indebted to Reuben Neves for an outstanding goal-line clearance after Bobby Decordova-Reid had directed an Andreas Pereira corner past Sa and towards the bottom corner with his head. At the other end, a moment’s confusion between Rodak and Tosin Adarabioyo saw the pair present Neto with the perfect opportunity to slide Wolves ahead but the winger failed to finish and Podence fired wide on the follow up.
In the energy-sapping heat, the second half began with sloppy passes and error-strewn football. Wolves wasted a glorious chance eight minutes after the interval when Rayan Ait-Nouri’s low ball across the box reached Gibbs-White, who slide in at the back post only for the finish to balloon over the crossbar with the goal gaping. The hosts huffed and puffed in the final third but struggled to hurt a well-organised Fulham outfit, who might have pinched all three points from the penalty spot late on. Alt-Nouri’s ill-time lunge on Decordova-Reid saw the referee point to the spot, but the visiting supporters’ celebrations proved premature. Silva’s side were further depleted by injuries sustained by Kenny Tete and Neeskens Kebano, but the Whites finished with three academy graduates on the pitch. Jay Stansfield made his Premier League debut and looked lively in an unfamiliar role.
Wolves were on the front foot throughout seven minutes of stoppage time but couldn’t force a winner and much of that was down to the resolution of Rodak, Ream and Adarabioyo. Fulham could be content with how easily they managed to shut down a Wolves side, who have shown little of the vibrancy that has characterised their longevity in the top flight. Pivotal to that effort was the work ethic of Harrison Reed and Joao Palhina in the middle, but each player put in a serious side. Fulham can’t be too disheartened with two points from their first two outings in the top flight.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-2-3-1): Sa; Jonny (Semedo 78), Alt Nouri, Collins, Kilman; Dendoncker, Neves; Gibbs-White, Podence, Neto (Traore 78); Hwang (Guedes 57). Subs (not used): Sarkic, Boly, Gomes, Cundle Ronan, Campbell.
BOOKED: Podence, Neves.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete (Francois 90+2), A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed, Palhinha; Decordova-Reid (Mbabu 90+4), Kebano (Stansfield 83), Pereira (Cairney 86); Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Leno, Duffy, Diop, Chalobah, Muniz.
BOOKED: Palhinha, Reed, Mitrovic.
REFEREE: John Brooks (Leicestershire).