The performance of Andreas Pereira might have gone a little lost in the outpouring of joy that followed another late header from Aleksandar Mitrovic. Beating Brentford, especially after Marco Silva’s side looked to have blown a two-goal lead, has the potential to give Fulham’s season a real shot in the arm. A last-gasp local derby win is the ideal fillip heading into a tough run of fixtures with more capital clashes, against Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and West Ham to come, and a midweek meeting with in-form Brighton also looming. The confidence the squad will take from the quality of the football they played to establish such a commanding cushion in the first half – and that it didn’t end up proving merely academic – will be huge.
Pereira was pivotal to how Fulham unsettled Brentford from the outset. There may have been concerns about his ability to perform consistently in the Premier League, but the Brazilian banished any doubts with a virtuoso performance against our neighbours. Just like Harry Wilson, who found a new home last season after becoming frustrated with a lack of first-team opportunities at Liverpool, Pereira looks reinvigorated by moving from Manchester United to Craven Cottage, having spent four of his last six seasons with the Red Devils out on loan.
His penchant for a defence-splitting pass and desire to run at the defenders tells you just why Marco Silva was so keen on plucking the Belgium-born attacking midfielder from Flamengo’s clutches to replace the departing Fabio Carvalho. Pereira appears the ideal fit for the number ten role in Fulham’s system, able to be influential on the ball but to lead an intense press from behind Aleksandar Mitrovic that befuddles even the most confident of teams in possession. He adds another dimension with the quality of his dead-ball delivery. Fulham scored from one set play, when Pereira’s perfectly delivered corner was powered home by Joao Palhinha, and almost found the net from another in the second half, after the Brazilian pulled himself up from the turf after seeing an enterprising run crudely curtailed just outside the area and forced a fine reflex save from David Raya at the ensuing free-kick.
Pereira’s energy offers benefits to the Whites both in and out of possession. At a time when Brentford were beginning to get a foothold in the contest, his bursts forward occupied centre halves who were far happier being playmakers at the start of visiting attacks. Pontus Jansson didn’t enjoy seeing the Fulham number eighteen surge after the half way with the ball and the hosts should arguably have made more of an opportunity that only arrived because of Pereira’s devastating dribbling. As well as creating four clear-cut chances, Fulham’s constant creative hub kept hold of the ball intelligently – completing 81% of his passes, often looking to switch the play out to the flanks.
It is well worth noting that Pereira’s versatility – he moved out to the right flank after Jay Stansfield had run himself into the ground – created the conditions for Fulham to go on and win the contest. Tom Cairney contributed a crucial cameo from the bench himself, popping up in spaces left vacant as Thomas Frank’s charges got giddy and committed numbers forward to try and find a third. They were punished by a perceptive pass from Cairney and a brilliant cross from Mbabu that matched the majesty of Mitrovic’s header. The only reason that the former Newcastle full back was able to put a ball in with such freedom was the presence of Pereira occupying two Bees’ defenders ten yards ahead of the new signing.
Just like Silva, Pereira is fired up to prove his worth in the Premier League. He feels he has unfinished business in the English top flight, having made just 45 league appearances in eleven years with United – and he has already began to prove his detractors wrong. Keep up this sensational start and the Brazilian international might be considered one of the bargains of the summer.