Aleksandar Mitrovic certainly knows how to pick his moments. The Serbian, deemed a flat track bully not worthy of the Premier League by the talking heads before the start of the season, offered another demonstration of his peerless penalty-box predatory with a last-gasp header to settle a thrilling west London derby in Fulham’s favour this afternoon. His decisive intervention – a perfectly placed header from Kevin Mbabu’s outstanding cross – came just a week after he had failed to convert a late spot-kick at Wolves and delivered Fulham’s first home league win over Brentford in 32 years. That Marco Silva’s side had squandered a seemingly comfortable two-goal cushion made their first victory of the season all the sweeter.
Mitrovic had convincingly won a physical battle with Pontus Jansson at the heart of the Bees’ back line but had nothing to show for it as the clock ticked towards injury time. That had more to do with the excellence of David Raya in the visiting goal, who somehow palmed away a Mitrovic header from point-blank range and made a sprawling save when the talismanic forward had been set free on goal by a terrible back pass. His frustration matched Fulham’s. The hosts had looked in total control, establishing a two goal lead through Bobby Decordova-Reid’s opener inside the first minute and a towering header from Joao Palhinha, but spoiled a splendid first half by allowing Christian Norgaard to escape at a corner just before the break and volley Brentford right back into the contest.
The Whites rode their luck in the second period. Ivan Toney had two goals ruled out for offside – the first via VAR – and Thomas Frank’s men looked much more like the side that had swatted Manchester United aside so straightforwardly last week in the second half. The visitors threw men forward, with Jay Stansfield producing a superb saving tackle to block a shot from Rico Henry, and were eventually rewarded when the Whites switched off down the right flank. Yoane Wisa worked his way to the byline and delivered a devilish low cross that Toney gleefully guided him. The striker’s mimicking of Mitrovic’s favoured celebration would tempt fate severely.
For a while, Fulham were rattled. Brentford were first to second balls and put a tiring home side under serious pressure. But the changes that Silva had arguably resisted for too long while his side were ahead tilted the game back in the Whites’ favour. Tom Cairney found pockets of space in front of the Bees back four and Andreas Pereira, who had earlier been exceptionally unlucky not to open his Fulham account with a fine free kick roamed menacingly along the right flank. It was Mbabu, who eventually replaced Kenny Tete, who swung over two telling crosses from the right. His first saw Raya claw out a Mitrovic header from underneath his own crossbar, but the second – sent in from fully 35 yards – gave the red hot striker a clear run and jump at the back post. Mitrovic nodded a magnificent finish beyond Raya’s despairing dive to send the Cottage into raptures.
Fulham’s first win in 25 top flight London derbies should have been much more comfortable. As they have throughout this season, Silva’s side started at a frenetic tempo. They could scarcely of dreamt about a better beginning. Mitrovic jinked his way inside and outside his man but his shot was blocked into the path of Stansfield, whose own effort was diverted onto the bar by Raya. Just when the chance looked like it had gone, there was Bobby Decordova-Reid to follow up. What a start after just 42 seconds.
Raya made good reaction saves from Pereira and Stansfield, who worked so hard out of position on the right flank, before Mitrovic had a goal correctly chalked off by VAR when he was in an offside position. You felt Fulham had to make their dominance count and they did when Palhinha, a colossus alongside Harrison Reed in central midfield once again, climbed highest to head home Pereira’s corner. Fulham’s afternoon then lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous as Brentford burst into level following Norgaard’s opener. The Danish midfielder was fortunate to remain on the field after a lamentable lunge at Stansfield, but perhaps the most pleasing element of this Fulham performance was how they found another gear when the Bees appeared likelier to nick all three points in a frenetic finale.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Tete (Mbabu 77), A. Robinson, Adarabioyo, Ream; Reed, Palhinha; Stansfield (Cairney 77), Decordova-Reid, Pereira; Mitrovic (Duffy 90+2). Subs (not used): Rodak, Diop, Chalobah, Francois, Harris.
BOOKED: Tete, Mbabu, Palhina.
BRENTFORD (4-3-3): Raya; Hickey (Lewis-Potter 70), Henry, Jansson, Mee; Norgaard, Jensen (Janelt 70) Da Silva (Baptiste 74); Mbuemo, Wissa (Ghoddos 83), Toney. Subs (not used): Strakosha, Sorenson, Rasmussen, Onyeke, Dervisoglu.
BOOKED: Da Silva, Mee.
REFEREE: Peter Bankes (Merseyside).
What a game! and what a dramatic end!
I think the whole neighborhood heard my scream after Mitro’s goal!!! MITROOOOOOOO!!!!!! We deserved more, and we didn’t deserve to suffer that much.
Silva is my man, I love the way team is playing, so high tempo, so aggresive upfront, BUT…. why does he take so much time for substitutions???
Look at Mbabu (I guess he replaces Tete next game), he gave us an extra gear at the end, but Silva looks scary to change anything until the last end of game!?
5 points out of 9!!! I guess we’d have signed for a start like this! I feel confident for the season.
Very impressed today again with the attitude and intensity love the way we played Brentford are a good side and looked Dagerous when they attacked Leno looked Ok he looked a bit nervous but once he stopped a couple he was Ok Palinha was good Also picking up bits and pieces here and there then the goal of course I watched him throughout the game and he has a presence in front of the back four the Spine of the team is beginning to take shape which is Leno Tosin Ream? Palinha and Mitro we can only get better but lots of work to do just a Final mention for Little Reedy who rarely gets a mention is forming a good partnership with Palinha onwards and Upwards
Mitro to the rescue as we looked under the cosh in the second half after dominating the first half. I thought Stansfield was brilliant an i can see him becoming more of a feature this season. Mbabu looked good maybe better than Tete. Personally I would have made the substitutions 10 minutes earlier. A great result and a sound performance
Excellent first half and we could have gone in at the break 3 or 4 up. Bad lapse to let them back in the game just before half-time which gave them back some determination and we were under the cosh second half.
Despite that, we still had enough chances to have sealed the victory but it looked as though it just wasn’t going to be Mitro’s day when, out of nowhere, he powered in that headed winner. Great cross from Mbabu but such a brilliant finish from one of the best finishers in the Premiership and, once again, highlighting that, just 2 seasons ago, we had a manager who, through sheer egotistical reasons, didn’t want to play him and cost us our Premiership place.
Stansfield gave 100% playing in an unfamiliar position but we all know that we need some quality in wide positions. Let’s hope that, finally, this coming week, this is resolved (along with other positions that need strengthening) as we have a very tough game next week.
Commiserations to Marek Rodak. Man of the Match one week -on the bench next. Tough gig!
But, now Leno is in, I can’t see him being shifted.
Jedi -you played great at Wolves, mate, but, yesterday, you were back to your old self. Just not good enough-especially when we are under the cosh. Get it together!
Pereira was majestic in the first half and bossed the midfield. Hopefully, more to come like that.
Palinha – great goal and, when you clattered Ben Mee, you made my day! Just watch those yellow cards as we can’t afford to be without you.
Fantastic end to end game and well deserved 3 points.
Cannot understand the question mark over Ream!! Tosin, despite being generally sound and dependable, is the one who, currently, appears to falter on the odd occasion. So, if anyone is under threat from Diop, it should not be Ream!