On Fulham’s second Celebration Day where the club paid tribute to those we have lost over the last twelve months, Craven Cottage enjoyed an impressive dismantling of Steve Cooper’s improving Nottingham Forest. Willian rolled back the years with a sensational finish, firing the hosts ahead from an acute angle in the seventeenth minute, and substitute Manor Solomon powered home his first goal since arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk with two minutes left.
In between those goals, Forest fought manfully. They were battling misfortune in the seventh minute with Scott McKenna and Wily Boly injured whilst trying to shackle Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Scot collided with Fulham’s Serbian forward, whilst Boly pulled a muscle whilst trying to clear his header. The double change saw Joe Worrall and Felipe tasked with nullifying Fulham’s main threat but one of Marco Silva’s serious successes has been ensuring that the rest of this terrific team weigh in with goals.
Willian has been a revelation since arriving on a free transfer in September. Plenty doubted the Brazilian veteran had what it takes after struggling at Arsenal and Corinthians, but the wily winger has had the doubters eating humble pie. Even the 34 year-old might have smiled at the way he found the top corner after his quick feet had worked a yard of space in a crowded area, bending a brilliant finish into the top corner.
The touch of Brazilian brilliance followed last-ditch Forest defence in the spirit of Stuart Pearce. Bobby Decordova-Reid, who was outstanding on the right, had earlier brought an early away raid to an end with a superb saving tackle and burst onto the loose ball after Joao Palhina’s drive was blocked. The Jamaican’s cross was headed clear by Renan Lodi, only for Willian to end the Whites’ 30-day white for a league goal.
It sparked some assault on the visiting goal and Forest were fortunate to only be a goal down at the break. Mitrovic was denied a second by a stretching Navas save after more wonderful wing play by Willian before Decordova-Reid clattered the crossbar with a 35-yarder. Andreas Pereira, who buzzed around with plenty of intent, wasn’t far away with a lovely left-footed curler.
The hosts might have extended their lead after the interval. Palhinha nodded a Pereira corner wide when it seemed easier to score and Willian rattled the far post after cutting in from the right flank. Pereira clipped the crossbar with a fine free-kick and only the introduction of Jonjo Shelvey, who was remined that Harry Potter was a Fulham fan by the Hammersmith End, sparked the visitors into life. The terrific Tim Ream timed a challenge on Morgan Gibbs-White to perfection, before Forest found another gear.
With the former Newcastle midfielder pulling the strings in midfield and Emmanuel Dennis offering encouragement further forward, Forest suddenly came to life. Dennis drove over from a Serge Aurier cross that dropped beyond Kenny Tete before the full back found himself on the end of a Shelvey ball only for Bernd Leno to brilliantly keep out his header.
Willian was forced off through injury but Solomon seized his chance to shine. He stroked home his first goal since arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk after a flick from Harry Wilson found Pereira in space. It was a lovely moment for the Israeli, who has battled bravely back from a horrible injury early in his Fulham career, and ensured Silva’s superb side are back in seventh. The Cottage choir sung about going on a European tour – and it really doesn’t seem too fanciful.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Tete (Cedric 90), A. Robinson, Diop, Ream; Palhinha, Reed; Decordova-Reid (Wilson 85), Willian (Solomon 72), Pereira (Lukic 90); Mitrovic (Vinicius 84). Subs (not used): Rodak, Adarabioyo, Duffy, James.
GOALS: Willian (17), Solomon (88).
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (4-3-3): Neves; Aurier, Lodi, Boly (Worrall 7), McKenna (Felipe 7); Freuler, Mangala (Shelvey 56), Scarpa (Dennis 56); Johnson, Gibbs-White, Wood (Ayew 63). Subs (not used): Hennessey, Williams, Colback, Surridge.
REFEREE: Andy Madley (West Yorkshire).
Let’s hope Willian’s injury is not serious. However we don’t have a bad replacement in Solomon who can only get more comfortable in the Prem.
Willian motm performance. I think we might have all doubted his motivations but what a signing given his desire to keep playing at the highest level. Fingers crossed he’s OK. Big game next Saturday
70 Brazil caps, enough said. Legend