After 35 minutes at Craven Cottage this afternoon, Fulham’s fabulous start to live in the Premier League looked like it belonged to a different century. Everything that could possibly go wrong for Marco Silva did inside the first 35 minutes. His chosen replacement for the suspended Joao Palhinha, one of the signings of summer, lasted only eight minutes. Nathaniel Chalobah took his instructions to match the Portuguese international’s intensity a little too far, when he wildly lunged at Sean Longstaff. The England international’s first Premier League start for two years ended when Darren England upgraded his initial yellow to a red card – and the Whites were up against it from that moment on.
Chalobah’s idiotic dismissal galvanised a Newcastle side who scented a golden opportunity to win their first league game since the opening weekend. They should have already been ahead but Callum Wilson contrived to strike the base of the far post after Bernd Leno had saved superbly from Longstaff. The breakthrough didn’t take long in coming as Wilson nodded home from almost on the goal-line after Joe Willock headed Kieran Trippier’s cross back across goal. There was a lengthy check for offside, but the goal stood.
Silva opted not to stiffen up the central midfield area and Newcastle poured forward for fun. Bruno Guimares enjoyed the freedom of SW6 to spray passes out to the flanks and, after Wilson curled wide when space had opened up for him, Miguel Almiron showed the England international how to finish. The Paraguayan produced an unstoppable dipping volley that left Leno clutching at air after Guimares had chipped a clever ball over the retreating Fulham defence. Fulham’s awful afternoon got worse when Aleksandar Mitrovic limped off before Longstaff made it three, converting a loose ball from close range after Leno had saved superbly from Sven Botman. That was the signal for debutant Layvin Kurwaza to collapse to the turf clutching his ankle: a worrying end to a chastening full debut.
Three goals in the first 45 minutes and Fulham being reduced to ten men rendered the second period pretty academic. The hosts belatedly opted for damage limitation as Silva switched to three centre halves but the reorganisation barely stemmed the bleeding. Willock almost added a fourth before turning provider with a surging run down the wing after being released by Jacob Murphy and a low cross that afforded Almiron the easiest of tap-ins. The Paraguayan was only denied a hat-trick by the assistant referee’s flag and the visitors looked like scoring every time they came forward.
Fulham never wavered from their attacking blueprint, even at 4-0 down and with fatigue setting in amongst the ten men. They will have plenty to look back on and sort out, but the spirit remained strong. They got a reward two minutes from time when substitute Neeskens Kebano cut in from the left and floated over a fine cross which Bobby Decordova-Reid headed into the far corner after losing his marker. Fulham will have bad days at the office – and this might rival some of Silva’s worst in a varied managerial career – but the key is how the Whites will handle painful setbacks.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Mbabu (Cairney 45), Kurzawa (Diop 45+2), Adarabioyo, Ream; Chalobah, Reed; Pereira, James (Kebano 70), Decordova-Reid; Mitrovic (Vincius 37). Subs (not used): Rodak, Duffy, Parkes, Harris.
BOOKED: Mitrovic, Reed.
SENT OFF: Chalobah (8).
GOAL: Decordova-Reid (88).
NEWCASTLE UNITED (4-3-3): Pope; Trippier (Lewis 83), Burn (Targett 83), Botman, Schaar (Lascelles 83); Longstaff, Bruno Guimares (Anderson 59), Willock; Almiron, Jacob Murphy, C. Wilson (Fraser 66). Subs (not used): Karius, Dummett, Joelinton, Wood.
GOALS: Wilson (11), Almorin (33, 57), Longstaff (34).
REFEREE: Darren England (Doncaster).