Fulham sign French left back

Fulham have this afternoon confirmed the signing of young French full back Ziyad Larkeche from Paris Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Larkeche had been targeted by a number of European sides after deciding to leave the French giants this summer when his existing contract expired. The 17 year-old had become the youngest player to appear for PSG in the UEFA Youth League and helped the Parisian giants’ under-19 side reach the quarter finals of the Coupe Gambardella.

Larkeche is delighted to have finalised his move to London. He told Fulham’s official website:

“I am over the moon with this move. Joining a traditional and historic club like Fulham is a dream come true. From the first sight, the club really convinced me that it was the best option for me so I look forward to giving my best for the team. I would like to thank the club and my agents, Gold Kick, for this massive opportunity.

Fulham academy director Huw Jennings said:

“We’re absolutely delighted for Ziyad to be joining us. We’ve been looking out for a talented attacking minded left-back and feel this signing is a major coup. He will initially compete in our Under-23 team and hopefully he can move forward from there.”

Grinding out a win

When you get down to the business end of the season, it becomes much more about results than performances. Scott Parker admitted as much after Fulham clung on to a precious three points last night and, given Fulham’s wretched couple of results against the teams also chasing automatic promotion since the restart, relief was certainly the order of the day.

It wasn’t a vintage victory – and when Parker and his backroom staff analyse the action, they’ll find plenty of things to work on. It was always likely to be a little hairy at the back again given that the reshaped back four only had a couple of days to work on their shape and responsibilities after the debacle at Leeds, but the manner in which things started would hardly have given anyone much confidence.

Fulham were guilty of overplaying far too close to their own goal, with Denis Odoi, who actually had a decent game at left back, attempting a ridiculous crossfield pass that put his team-mates under pressure. Michael Hector, who hasn’t been as assured as he was pre-lockdown, was drawn out of position to try to deal with Ryan Manning and while the QPR wing-back’s delivery was first class, there were further questions to ask about how Fulham failed to deal with the danger. Could Marek Rodak have come for the cross? And Tim Ream was far too easily outjumped by Jordan Hugill, adding to the sense that he has lost a bit of sharpness as well as form of late.

A fairly limited QPR side caused Fulham plenty of problems, although that won’t serve as much comfort for Mark Warburton. Hugill, a proven nuisance at this level, seemed to find time and space in front of our back four throughout – and was only denied a second before half time by a brilliant save from Rodak. Perhaps the most alarming moment of a first half that prompted several sharp intakes of breath came when another sloppy Harry Arter pass allowed QPR to break forward. Bright Osayi-Samuel skipped around Hector far too easily and seemed to lay another goal on a plate for Luke Amos, only for the midfielder to blaze over the bar. Talk about a let off.

Arter had another one of those performances that seems to defy description. He was busy and positive on the ball, but gave it away far too often, and for my money, gave the energetic Harrison Reed an awful lot to do. His goal was a fine strike from distance, although we must add the caveat that Liam Kelly will feel he should have saved it. It was good to see Kevin McDonald return in the closing stages – he’s spent far too much time on the sidelines this season and you feel his experience and leadership could prove invaluable during the run-in.

There’s still a sense that the balance of this side is not quite right. It must be said that Cyrus Christie added urgency and drive down the right flank – taking his wonderful winner with real aplomb. But there’s a big problem with a side packed with creative players failing to carve out clear-cut chances at the moment. Tom Cairney spent much of the evening in far too deep a position to threaten the QPR goal, whilst our inverted wingers were anonymous for long periods. Poor old Bobby Decordova-Reid looked like a fish out of water as a forward – his own lack of confidence summed up by his free header from a corner just before half-time that sailed over the bar.

You still feel that this squad can deliver more clinical displays in the games ahead and there was definitely an element of feeling the pressure going into a local derby on the back of two defeats. If it is to be the play-offs – and that is still by no means assured given the congested nature of the Championship table – the hope has to be that Fulham can play their way back into form over the closing weeks of this campaign to be ready for the crunch fixtures that will decide our destiny.

Parker pleased with Fulham’s ‘character’

Scott Parker praised his side’s ‘character’ after Fulham bounced back from two damaging defeats to record a valuable win in the local derby at Queens Park Rangers.

The Fulham manager was delighted that his team fought back from the shock of conceding the opening goal to Jordan Hugill inside the first minute and claimed all three points in the absence of the suspended Aleskandar Mitrovic. Parker told his post-match press conference that grabbing the three points was the important thing – and that he believed his side had been unfortunate in their first two outings since the resumption of the Championship season.

The result was key tonight. I don’t think we’ve got what we deserved against Brentford and Leeds. For large parts of both games, our performance was exceptional, but the team gets judged on wins and losses. After two losses, it was a key that we got the result.

QPR are a well-drilled team. We knew coming here would be very difficult and they were very aggressive. We showed character. To go a goal down early was very disappointing. It was poor and sloppy from us. The first goal is key, and we’ve struggled this season when we go a goal down, so to not drop our heads and to take the game to QPR was pleasing. We deserved to get our noses in front.

We worked on our set-up in a short period of time and it worked really well and caused them a few problems. There’ll be many more twists and turns in this division. Games come thick and fast. We just need to keep putting in performances and keep getting results. We need to stick to our process and if we do that, we’ll keep the pressure on.

Mitro will be a big loss. There’s a big responsibility now, but I’m pleased that the players have come in and got the win. There’s no hiding from the fact that we haven’t got a recognised forward in the squad other than Aleks, so the way the players took to the structure was spot on. I felt we had a fluidity and looked a threat. As disappointed as we are to lose Aleks, it’s an opportunity for others. We need them attacking players to step up. We’re aware every game is different. Like always, we adapted to give us options. There’s another side to us and we’ll have to play a different way, but I know we can do that.

Parker was also full of praise for Fulham’s matchwinner Cyrus Christie, whose adventurous display from right back was capped with a fine goal.

Cyrus did exceptionally well. Cyrus has had to sit and wait on occasions this year, and he’s maybe felt it’s been a bit unfair, but he deserved to get the winner due to his reaction and professionalism. The way he trains puts him in a position to earn that moment, and I’m very pleased for him

Christie screamer secures derby win

A sensational strike from Cyrus Christie secured Fulham’s first win since the resumption of Championship football as the Whites came from behind to claim all three points at Queens Park Rangers this evening.

Christie, arguably Fulham’s most consistent performer on his return to the side, fired home a powerful low shot from 25 yards and settled a nervy local derby in the visitors’ favour. Fulham’s performance was gritty rather than convincing, but Scott Parker’s side showed commendable character to overcome an awful start and record a morale-boosting victory.

Parker rejigged the Fulham back four following that defensive horror show at Leeds, shifting Denis Odoi to left back and bringing in Christie for Joe Bryan. The new-look rearguard made the worst possible start with Odoi and Christie losing possession, allowing Ryan Manning to whip a dangerous cross in from the left. Jordan Hugill climbed above Tim Ream all too easily and QPR were in front inside the very first minute.

It was hardly the sort of start Parker, who has seen Fulham’s hopes of automatic promotion evaporate quickly after the lockdown, would have envisaged. His side looked largely toothless going forward, with Bobby Decordova-Reid largely ineffectual as a replacement for the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic. Their first sight of goal came from Christie, who bombed forward with intent all evening, but Liam Kelly easily gathered his speculative shot from long range.

An equaliser almost arrived courtesy of a mishit shot from the tigerish Harrison Reid but the ball spun off the base of the far post and away to safety. Fulham were gradually beginning to dominate possession, but their goal still came somewhat out of the blue. Harry Arter cut infield from the right flank and, with little other option, let fly from distance to score his first league goal for the club – although Kelly should have done better going down to his left.

The goal galvanised Fulham further. Arter was denied a second in quick succession when Ben Amos got in the way of another venomous drive, but as the first half drew to a close familiar defensive frailties came to the fore. First, Geoff Cameron released the lively Bright Osayi-Samuel down the left and, when the winger produced a great cut-back another QPR goal appeared like a formality, but Amos blasted way over the bar from twelve yards. Just before the break, Marek Rodak produced a splendid save to deny Hugill a second, springing to his right to turn over the forward’s rising drive after he had tricked his way between Tom Cairney and Michael Hector.

The break came at a good time for Fulham, who were quickly on the front foot in the second half. Anthony Knockaert seized on a mistake from Yoann Barbet but Kelly scrambled across his line to palm aside the Frenchman’s measured finish. The QPR goalkeeper was in the right place from the resulting corner, grabbing Michael Hector’s downward header with Christie inches away from providing a decisive contact himself.

Rangers still looked dangerous going forward themselves and Todd Kane should have done better than volley an inviting centre from the dangerous Manning high into the Loft having ghosted in at the far post. It was a miss that would prove pivotal. Fulham, who had signalled their intentions with a speedy break from the back that saw Christie and Knockaert combine down the right before Kane touched the cross clear just in the nick of time, were beginning to put more pressure on the Rangers goal.

The winner came from an unlikely source. Christie had one scored once in 58 previous Fulham appearances – a similarly sweet strike at Millwall in the League Cup – and Rangers afforded him plenty of space as he moved onto a clever pass from substitute Josh Onomah. The Irish international had not been averse to pulling the trigger all night – but the quality of this finish was sublime, arrowing into the bottom corner from fully 25 yards out.

Mark Warburton quickly shuffled his pack in search of an equaliser, throwing on Aramide Oteh and Olamide Shadipo, and the final quarter of the contest saw Rangers firmly on the front foot. The home side were unfortunate not to grab a leveller deep two minutes from time when Manning headed an Eze corner against the crossbar and Fulham just about scrambled the loose ball clear. The wing-back spurned the clearest chance during six minutes of stoppage time when he looped another header over the bar from a corner as Fulham clung on to claim a much-needed three points.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS (3-5-2): Kelly; Kakay, Cameron, Barbet; Kane (Shodipo 80), Ball (Chair 89), Amos, Manning, Eze; Osayi-Samuel (Oteh 80), Hugill. Subs (not used): Lumley, Shodipo, Rangel, Masterson, Bettache, Gubbins, Clarke.

BOOKED: Manning, Hugill.

GOAL: Hugill (1).

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rodak; Christie, Odoi, Hector, Ream; Arter (Onomah 70), Reed; Cavaleiro (S. Sessegnon 90+4), Knockaert (Bryan 70), Cairney (McDonald 90+4); Decordova-Reid (Le Marchand 79). Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Johansen, de la Torre, Jasper.

BOOKED: Christie, Cairney, Knockaert.

GOALS: Arter (21), Christie (75).

REFEREE: Gavin Ward (Surrey).

Mitrovic banned for three matches

Aleksandar Mitrovic will serve a three-match suspension after being banned for violent conduct following his elbow on Leeds’ Ben White during Saturday’s defeat by Leeds United.

The incident was missed by the match officials, but the FA deemed it serious enough to take retrospective action. That means Mitrovic, who is Fulham’s top scorer with 23 goals in 36 appearances, will now miss Fulham’s derby with QPR tomorrow night and the following fixtures against Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest.

Fulham boss Scott Parker now weighs a conundrum over who to field up front as he seeks a first win after lockdown. In the continuing absence of Aboubakar Kamara, who scored twice against QPR earlier this season when Mitrovic was suspended, the favourite would be Bobby Decordova-Reid, but Parker could opt for teenage striker Jay Stansfield, who he has promoted to the first team previously this term.