Andre Schürrle has described scoring his first Fulham goal as one of the most special moments in his glittering career.
The German World Cup winner is looking to reignite his career during a two-year loan spell at Craven Cottage and made the most of his recall to the starting line-up with a superb display that was capped by Fulham’s fourth goal in their win over Burnley this afternoon.
A beaming Schürrle shared his delight with FulhamFCTV after the final whistle:
It was a great atmosphere and it was a really good feeling on the pitch. I really enjoyed every minute because you could feel like everyone was coming, everyone was going – the crowd wanted us to be together, fight and score the goals and that’s what we did. Today was amazing and for our new players it was so important, you can’t even believe.
We could have scored more, especially me. I think I had 45 shots today! Normally in a Premier League you don’t have so many shots and so many big chances, so that’s what we have to get together. Maybe we have to score a few more goals, but we’re happy with four today and the win.
The winger was delighted to get off the mark for the Whites, especially after seeing a number of his earlier efforts well saved by Joe Hart. Schürrle had also struck the crossbar with an audacious strike from the right angle of the penalty area but rounded off the victory by clinically finishing from the edge of the area after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s effort had rebounded off the far post.
When I scored the goal, it was very important for me. It was one of the greatest moments in my career and to be on this pitch and in front of these fans, because they were all chanting [my name] before, I wanted to give them something back and when the ball went in and I could feel this joy, it was an amazing moment.
I had a difficult situation in Dortmund in pre-season. I came here and everything went so quick. I was behind all the guys because I lost ten days in pre-season and I tried to fight back. The first few games was okay, Crystal Palace was okay, but I had a feeling I could do more and to get off the mark today is always one of the best moments.
Slavisa Jokanovic says Fulham’s first Premier League win will serve as ‘a big boost’ for his side as they strive to compete in the top flight once again.
The Whites had started the season with two defeats but got off the mark with an enterprising victory over Burnley at Craven Cottage this afternoon. Fulham were fired in front early on a sublime strike from Jean-Michael Seri before a brace from Aleksandar Mitrovic and a late fourth from Andre Schurrle made sure of the victory. Jokanovic was delighted with his team’s level of performance after the final whistle.
The Serbian head coach told his post-match press conference:
We played well today. We must work hard daily at the training ground and look for our best performance. We played bravely, we showed ambition to score the goals, we showed ambition to push forward and look for a second and third and fourth.
This fourth goal, from my point of view, arrived a little bit late for us. Between the third and fourth we had many chances to finish the game off, but fortunately we scored the goal and killed the game.
Jokanovic believes the first three points will be immensely valuable for the confidence of his revamped squad.
This performance and this victory is a big boost for us in this moment. We can be satisfied with our performance today. I don’t want to think about negative things now, but we know there is a lot of room ahead of us for improvement. We must keep going, work hard at the training ground, and be available to find our best way to win games.
He felt justified in making wholesale changes to his starting line-up following the defeat by Tottenham at Wembley last weekend.
I made five changes this afternoon. These 11 players I chose today performed really well. We must immediately show a desire to work hard and push all together to try and be at our highest level for the next game. I try to find the best solution to win the game. Sometimes the plan works, sometimes it doesn’t work.
We are not kids, this is the highest level of professional football. We must show humility, push hard and fight. This kind of performances encourages me, my team, the people in the stands.
Those casting casual glance over the Premier League table prior to today’s fixture might have thought Fulham’s £100m summer spending misplaced after they began their return to the top flight with two defeats. On a soggy afternoon at Craven Cottage, the Whites painted a spirited riposte by putting Burnley to the sword with some sparkling football inspired by the artistry of Jean-Michael Seri and an exhibition of classical centre forward play from Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Seri, who could have been wearing the fabled colours of Barcelona but for a late change of heart from the Catalan club last summer, has purred quietly in the season’s opening fortnight at the heart of a reshaped Fulham midfield. Once again he orchestrated much of Fulham’s most incisive football from the midfield, but he needed little more than three minutes to leave his mark on this contest. There appeared little danger when the Ivorian received possession from Luciano Vietto thirty yards from goal, left of centre, but in the blink of an eye Seri glided away from Jeff Hendrick and unleashed an unstoppable strike into Joe Hart’s top corner. Not a bad way to score your first goal in English football.
Fulham’s commitment to total football under Slavisa Jokanovic has been absolute – and was the reason why they earned promotion from the Championship last season. Occasionally, it will prove the Whites’ biggest weakness: as it did here when Maxime Le Marchand carelessly gifted possession to Burnley on the halfway line five minutes later. The pace of Aaron Lennon unsettled the remnants of the home defence and, once the former England winger had beautifully teed up Hendrick, the equaliser arrived at the second attempt after the recalled Marcus Bettinelli had repelled his initial effort.
Impressively, that setback only served to galvanise a Fulham side who had shown positive signs in their first two Premier League outings, but not managed to string together a complete performance. They continued to probe patiently, enjoying almost complete dominance of the ball, and with full backs Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Joe Bryan haring forward down both flanks. Jokanovic had made five changes in response to last weekend’s defeat by Tottenham at Wembley – even benching wonderkid Ryan Sessegnon, rendering Gareth Southgate’s rumoured scouting mission pretty pointless, and underlining the need for his players to adjust to the unforgiving nature of the top flight.
The home side looked enlivened by the intelligence of Luciano Vietto on the left and Andre Schurrle’s eagerness on the opposite flank. The German winger carried the ball forward with purpose and peppered Hart’s goal with shots from distance throughout, whilst Vietto floated into pockets of space behind Mitrovic. The Serbian centre forward set about banishing any doubts about his suitability at this level – adding to his Wembley equaliser with two goals in two minutes that changed the complexion of this contest.
Both came in the air and were intricately worked. The first had been constructed at Motspur Park with Tom Cairney receiving a short corner and chipping an inviting ball to the back post, where Mitrovic arrived to head past a hesitant Hart from barely three yards out. Mitrovic led Ben Mee and James Tarkowski a merry dance all afternoon, with the Burnley centre backs getting their wires horribly crossed as Vietto floated an inviting cross between them for the former Newcastle forward to bury a routine header. Hart’s anguish at the ease of it all was understandable – one of his defenders pushed up to play offside whilst the other stayed deeper, affording Mitrovic another simple finish.
The visitors did find a reply prior to half-time, although Tarkowski’s bundled finish from a corner probably shouldn’t have stood given that the former Brentford centre back looked offside when Mee headed the ball back towards goal. Sean Dyche’s charges looked exhausted by the after-effects of an demorilising defeat at the hands of Olympiakos in midweek – and couldn’t rouse themselves to complete the comeback in the second half. Hendrick came closest, driving into the Putney End after clever approach play from Chris Wood, but Fulham’s onslaught was unrelenting.
The lively Schurrle almost created a goal out of nothing, cutting in from the right to rattle Hart’s crossbar with an audacious curler from just outside the box. Then, Cairney – who later limped off after being clattered by Tarkowski – caressed a ball out to the rampaging Fosu-Mensah and the Manchester United loanee’s measured cross eluded the diving efforts of both Schurrle and Mitrovic to divert the ball home from inside the six-yard box. Just as the Cottage prepared itself for another agnosingly finale, Mitrovic wriggled free on the edge of the box and measured a drive for the far corner. Hart somehow tripped the strike onto the base of the far post, but proved powerless to prevent Schurrle from rolling in the rebound with his eleventh attempt of the match.
The two-goal cushioned probably offered a better reflection of an absorbing contest and an elusive first Premier League win should do wonders for Fulham’s confidence. Jokanovic now has a plethora of options to perm his first eleven form and, on this evidence, when they click, the Whites could prove a formidable proposition.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Bettinelli; Fosu-Mensah, Bryan (Chambers 72), Odoi, Le Marchand; McDonald, Seri, Cairney (Anguissa 78); Schurrle (R. Sessegnon 88), Vietto, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Fabri, Christie, Johansen, Kamara.
BOOKED: Schurrle, Bettinelli.
GOALS: Seri (4), Mitrovic (36, 38), Schurrle (83).
BURNLEY (4-2-3-1): Hart; Lowton, Ward (Barnes 66), Mee, Tarkowski; Cork, Westwood; Lennon, Gudmundsson (Taylor 23), Hendrick; Wood (Vokes 66). Subs (not used): Heaton, Gibson, Bardsley, Long.
GOALS: Hendrick (10), Tarkowski (41).
REFEREE: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).
It feels strange to have watched Fulham lose both matches played this season yet still feel very optimistic about this season. In both games we have played this so far I have been very impressed by aspects of Fulham’s game, particularly when you consider the sheer number of new players brought in over the summer months. I watched Crystal Palace on Monday night against Liverpool, and I have no doubt that they should be finishing in the top 10 this season, so the fact that we played so well against them, generally speaking, reassures me that we can still hurt teams this season. However, the honeymoon period is over for me. No matter how well we play, we will need to start picking up points sooner rather than later.
We should be targetting 3 points this weekend against a Burnley side who haven’t started the season well and are dealing with European commitments for the first time in decades. They were last seasons surprise packages, so they aren’t a side to be taken lightly, but in the Premier League, you have to take advantage of the opportunities you have. Taking on the Clarets at Craven Cottage just days after they were well beaten in Greece in the Europa League after playing with 10 men for the majority of the game, is one of those opportunities. Tired, jet lagged and demoralised after their poor start to the season, it’s important that we take advantage.
The Danger Zone
While I think that we are capable of taking maximum points this weekend given Burnley’s current predicament, that isn’t to say that this will be be straightforward. I’ve had a look at the statistics and noticed a few things that we will need to be aware of going into this game. The main one is that after just two games, Burnley are the second in the league for crosses into the box with 52 so far. Our defence has already conceded 5 goals, and it looks like Jokanovic doesn’t know what his best back five is quite yet. We are vulnerable here, so the mass of crosses is something that we will have to be prepared for.
The Target Zone
Where can we hurt Burnley? Last season they were so compact and teams found it very hard to break through them, but so far this season it has been different. I know we are only two games in, but they are in the bottom three for both tackles and interceptions, so Fulham’s quick passing could potentially cause them serious problems.
I’m expecting one change at least with Schurrle coming back in for Kamara, but Anguissa and Fosu-Mensah could keep their places from Saturday. I’m still happy for Fabri to stay between the sticks, but I don’t think the defence will change until Ream and Mawson are fit again.
My Starting XI- Fabri, Fosu-Mensah, Le Marchand, Chambers, Bryan, Anguissa, Cairney, Seri, Sessegnon, Mitrovic, Schurrle
It wasn’t a fairytale return to Wembley for Fulham after all. Three months after that magical day when the Whites won promotion to the Premier League by seeing off Aston Villa, Slavisa Jokanovic’s much-changed side were ultimately outclassed by Tottenham Hotspur but not before they gave Spurs something of a fright with a spirited second half showing. There were more than enough positives to take from an intriguing encounter, even if two straight defeats hint at the step up in class from the Championship.
Jokanovic made three changes from the side that had dominated possession on the opening day against Crystal Palace but were undone by naivety in both boxes. Timothy Fosu-Mensah replaced Cyrus Christie at right back, whilst André-Frank Zambo Anguissa was handed a debut in front of the defence and Aboubakar Kamara started in place of Andre Schurrle. The French forward operated on the left, but the inverted nature of Fulham’s wingers left them a little unbalanced in attack, with Ryan Sessegnon a peripheral figure on the right flank.
Tottenham began the brighter with Ben Davies whipping in a dangerous cross from the left that Lucas Moura should have done better than steer wide with his head at the back post. Harry Kane fell theatrically to the ground shortly afterwards but his appeals for a spot-kick were waved away by referee Anthony Taylor, as the England captain sought to make the most of scant contact from Fosu-Mensah. Fulham gradually felt their way into the contest – with their best spell of possession seeing Kamara and Tom Cairney play in Sessegnon, whose snapshot inside the six-yard box was blocked behind for a corner.
Hugo Lloris was called into action just before the half hour mark when a clever Kamara pass teed up Cairney in a central position just outside the box but Lloris got a firm hand to the Scottish international’s drive as it threatened the bottom corner. At the other end, Christian Eriksen brought a fine reaction save from Fabri with a curling free-kick that nearly crept in at the near post – but Fulham were growing in confidence.
A beautiful through ball from Jean-Michael Seri released Sessegnon, who couldn’t get the ball out of his feet as he bore down on the Tottenham goal, and the onrushing Lloris managed to block his shot at source as he rushed off his line. Spurs might have opened the scoring seconds later when both Chambers and Le Marchand blocked efforts at goal and Eriksen lifted a shot over the bar from the edge of the area as Seri threw himself into a tackle.
Tottenham did take the lead two minutes before the break with a goal of exquisite quality from Moura. The Brazilian winger couldn’t have broken his Premier League duck in finer style – bending an unstoppable shot in off the far post after Chambers and Le Marchand had once again threw themselves in the way of earlier efforts. The goal had cruelly come in the midst of Fulham’s most positive period of play, but the Whites were far from downhearted and launched a second half onslaught on the Tottenham goal that was swiftly rewarded.
The lively Aleksandar Mitrovic fashioned an early chance for himself, showing great strength to withstand a couple of challenges, and crashed an effort off the far-post with Cairney’s follow-up drifting just wide. Fabri produced a strong reaction save to keep out a venomous Dele Alli volley, but Fulham continued to go toe-to-toe with Mauricio Pochettino’s men. They got their reward seven minutes into the second period after a mesmerising spell of 27 consecutive passes when Joe Bryan’s teasing cross caused consternation in the Tottenham defence, Ryan Sessegnon prodded it back across goal and Mitrovic showed great agility to head into the net having been on the floor himself seconds earlier.
Pochettino then turned the contest in Tottenham’s favour by summoning former Fulham midfielder Mousa Dembele from the bench. The Belgian added assurance to Spurs’ midfield and they began to dominate proceedings in a manner not seen since before half-time. The Fulham goal led something of a charmed life with Le Marchand pulling off a brilliant block to save Fabri’s blushes after the Spanish goalkeeper had juggled a deep cross and dropped the ball at the feet of Alli before Kane rifled a drive onto the crossbar.
The damn finally broke with a quarter of an hour to play, when Trippier sparked memories of Russia from earlier in the summer with a superb free-kick to restore Tottenham’s lead. The full-back, making his first Spurs start of the season, bent a delicious finish inside Fabri’s near post from 25 yards after Anguissa’s ambitious forward pass was picked off and Fulham were left short-handed at the back against Kane and Alli. Just three minutes, Kane settled matters with a precise finish into the far corner having stepped away from Chambers after Anguissa had been robbed of possession deep in Fulham territory.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Alderweireld, Sánchez (Dembélé 63), Vertonghen; Trippier, Eriksen, Dier (Lamela 73), Davies; Lucas Moura, Dele Alli; Kane (Winks 89). Subs (not used): Vorm, Rose, Aurier, Sissoko.
GOALS: Lucas Moura (43), Trippier (74), Kane (77)
FULHAM (4-3-3): Fabri; Fosu-Mensah, , Bryan (Christie 85′), Chambers, Le Marchand; Anguissa, Seri, Cairney (Johansen 73′); R. Sessegnon, Kamara (Schürrle 88), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rico, McDonald, Kebano, Vietto.
GOAL: Mitrovic (52).
REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)..
It’s back to Wembley on Saturday for Fulham as we head across the capital to take on Spurs in their temporary home of the national stadium. Things aren’t going massively well off the pitch for Tottenham at the minute with no new faces through the door leading to a lot of disgruntled fans and then the delay in the move to their new stadium announced this week. A lot of the Spurs fans I know have stated that they don’t like playing at Wembley as it doesn’t feel like home and we all saw how slowly they started there last season. They struggled to put games to bed at Wembley against teams like ourselves until the second half of the season, which might give us a bit of hope going into Saturday’s fixture.
I’ve heard that Spurs have only sold as few as 25,000 tickets (this isn’t confirmed) for this game as so many fans are frustrated about the stadium situation, and season ticket holders have had to essentially re-buy the Fulham tickets after they were refunded from their original purchase. It’s all a bit strange and so many Spurs fans just don’t want to go back to Wembley. What is certain is that the atmosphere will be nothing like what it was back in May when 85,000 Villa and Fulham fans took the place over. This could play to Fulham’s advantage, especially if we start the game well which will lead to more disappointment for the Spurs fans, which can easily leak into the performance on the pitch.
On the other hand, we are undoubtedly taking on one of the league’s best sides in Tottenham Hotspur. They have a team filled with World Cup stars and players who have been consistently good over the past few seasons. There has been a lot of talk about Harry Kane’s August goal drought, but Fulham are very good at letting teams and players break unwanted records against them (I still have nightmares of Sunderland away last season). Last Saturday we had 7 new faces in the Fulham line-up so it’s understandable that we haven’t quite gelled yet while Spurs have the same team as last season which, while it’s frustrating for their fans, at least means that there will be no danger of them not being comfortable which each other on the pitch.
Despite the result on Saturday, I think Fulham should stick with the same line up against Spurs. Changing things too much after one game for me will only be detrimental to any progress as well as possibly wrecking the confidence of those who are dropped so early. There has been a lot of debate about the keeper situation but I think that’s a position where you need consistency more than most. If Fabri is dropped after 90 minutes then it sends a message out to the rest of the team that any mistakes could cost you your position on the team and I don’t believe that is the sort of atmosphere you want around the squad. I am not saying that mistakes should be over looked, but I’m saying that deal with it on the training pitch in order to create an atmosphere where players can thrive. Obviously if a player is clearly out of their depth then don’t play them, but I don’t think that was the case for any of our players on Saturday. When some of the other new boys like Anguissa and Mawson are fit and ready then they should be integrated into the team, but I’d rather that they were fit and able first.
With the difference in stature of the two clubs I reckon we can go to Wembley on Saturday with very little pressure on us which should allow us to play with a real sense of freedom. I think the playing relationship between Seri and Cairney already looked exceptional on Saturday so I expect it to be even better as the weeks go on. It will be interesting to see how they stand up against the likes of Erikson, Ali and Dier.
One thing that is certain, however, is that the supply up to Mitro needs to be far better than it was against Palace. We had so many opportunities to create chances but our big Serbian was let down time and time again by the crossing of various players. For me, it is that element of last weeks game that should have been the focus this week at Motspur Park. We will find out on Saturday if this has been the case.
My team- Fabri, Bryan, Chambers, Le Marchand, Christie, McDonald, Cairney, Seri, Sessegnon, Mitrovic, Schurrle
Fulham will face League Two Exeter City in the second round of the League Cup following tonight’s draw.
The Whites were drawn as the home side so they will host the Grecians at Craven Cottage in the week commencing Monday 27 August. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side were knocked of last year’s competition at this stage by Bristol Rovers.
Fulham’s return to the big time turned into a day of frustration as Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace ran out 2-0 winners at Craven Cottage. In truth, Palace had the clinical edge that Fulham didn’t, even though they found themselves without the ball for long stretches of the game. It has to be a lesson learned for Slavisa Jokanovic’s side but all in all there are plenty of things to be positive about.
Here are my player ratings from yesterday’s match –
Fabri – 6
The Spanish stopper was at the end of a barrage of abuse from some fans after the second goal that killed the game yesterday, but I personally feel that the response was quite unfair. Yes, he came out far too early to make the finish much easier than it should have been for Wilfred Zaha, but we could also point fingers at Ryan Sessegnon who had been dropped back to LB at the time, and either of our two centre back who were slow to react. Before the mistake I thought Fabri had a solid enough game. He made seven saves – more than any other keeper in the league this weekend, with the one from Benteke’s header in the first half particularly impressive. However, his positioning at times was suspect, and there were a couple of nervy moments. But let’s remember that our back five had never played together before in a competitive match which may have contributed to this.
Christie – 5
The only player from our back line who had played for Fulham last season was Cyrus Christie, who was brought in during the January transfer window when Fuham knew that Fredericks would be away in the summer. He was very lively going up and down the right flank and was constantly getting into the right positions for a cross but his link up play with Schurrle wasn’t quite up to scratch so more time will be required. However it’s his crossing that was the most disappointing part of his play. He attempted 12 crosses yesterday, more than anyone else in the league but I am struggling to remember any that came off. In Mitrovic we have a monster up front, but that monster needs to be fed. The positive thing is that he is getting into the right positions, but I’d imagine that the final ball will have to become his focus over the next weeks in training.
Le Marchand – 6
I was very impressed with our French full-back. With the signings of Mawson and Chambers, and with Ream and Odoi still to come back from injury, it will be interesting to see who will establish themselves as our centre backs, but I certainly saw a lot to be liked from Le Marchand yesterday. Remarkably he made 84 successful passes yesterday, that’s the seventh highest number in the opening weekend in the whole league. He also made a number of key tackles in the middle of the park to break up play.
Chambers – 6
Similarly to Le Marchand, Chambers will have to be up for a bit of competition for the shirt. His first game in Fulham colours was very positive, though, and he is another who I think will only improve as he gets to know his teammates better. However, he wasn’t tight enough to Schlupp for the first goal and Palace were quick to capitalise. A decent enough start for him, but room for improvement.
Bryan – 6
Joe Bryan looks to have been a very smart buy from Jokanovic. Quick feet and solid in both attack and defence. I can’t really give him more than 6 because he didn’t have as big an impact as he could have, but I don’t think he put a foot wrong. It’s interesting to note that while Christie on the opposite flank had 12 attempted crosses, Bryan only had 4. I’m not sure why we played much more down the right than the left, but I think we need a more balanced approach moving forward, especially as Bryan’s crossing ability looks to be better than Christie’s. Hopefully his ankle injury isn’t going to keep him out of the next game.
McDonald – 5
I don’t think that McDonald looked that comfortable so hopefully we will see an improvement next week. He is one of my favourite players in a Fulham shirt, but I thought that he slowed the play down a lot yesterday, which was one of the reasons why we struggled to create as much as our possession warranted. Looked slightly off the pace when trying to be our defensive shield but I think this is more down to an injury that prevented him from starting preseason as early as some of the rest and not down to ability.
Cairney – 6
For the first 30-40minutes I thought that Cairney looked to have made the step up to the Premier League with ease, but he faded a bit as time went on. However, he looks to have already formed a fluid relationship with Seri and their passing stats are very impressive. Cairney made 93 successful passes yesterday, second only to the 102 of James Milner against West Ham today. Who else made 93 passes you may ask? Jean Michael Seri. It could be the start of something wonderful. Watch this space!
I think Fulham have found an absolute smasher in Seri. As already mentioned, he had 93 successful passes. He also had 119 touches (2nd in the league this weekend) and made 6 tackles (1st in the league alongside a few other players). If we can just get the final ball right, then he could be what makes us tick this year. I was very surprised when we was brought off as I think that he was the best man on the pitch yesterday, but maybe so early in the season he is lacking fitness. I think the best is yet to come from him.
A mixed day for one of England’s brightest talents. He was very lively in the first half and was a real handful for the Palace defence, but disappeared in the second half. When he was pushed back to LB he was too slow to react in the phase of play were Zaha scored, which puts questions over his defensive abilities. However, I saw enough in the first half going forward to tell me that can step up. For an 18 year old making his Premier League debut, he was actually quite impressive. He will do damage to defences this year, but we will have to be prepared to be patient.
Again I saw enough to be convinced that Schurrle will be a real weapon for us this year, but he hasn’t quite built a bond with Christie yet. We weren’t quick enough to get the ball to him, so we lost a few opportunities to set him loose. He set up Mitrovic for a really good chance in the first half and on another day probably would have put us in the lead and he really should have been awarded a penalty in the second half. We saw glimmers of quality so hopefully he only improves.
Mitrovic – 6
Mitro did well to work with the limited supply that he got. He made a few chances for himself when he rolled the defender or used his strength to bring others into the game. On another day he could have bagged a couple so there are plenty of signs that he will have a fruitful season at Fulham. We need to supply him with better chances though, as we can’t have our biggest goal threat having to drop deep to get the ball.
Kamara – 5
AK went back to his ‘bull in a china shop’ style instead of the focused player we had at the end of last season. He could be a real impact sub for us this season, but yesterday I just saw him push people over. He made some great runs and put in a few good challenges, but he will need to become more focused. His erratic-at-times tackles will get him in trouble, so he will need to be careful.
Vietto – 5
Another debut for one of our deadline day buys. He looked very lively but didn’t really manage to get into the game, but he looks like he could be useful for us in the little we saw of him.
Johansen – N/A
Wasn’t on the pitch for long enough to really do anything. He did manage to stick the boot in a few times, though, prompting at least one angry response from Palace. Just like old times, eh? I’m not sure how much we will see of him this year, but I’d like to see him given a chance.
Slavisa Jokanovic refused to be downcast after Fulham’s Premier League return ended in a defeat by Crystal Palace at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
The Whites were beaten by a splendid Jeffrey Schlupp strike and a piece of predatory finishing from Wilfred Zaha after a mistake from Fabri in the Fulham goal. But Jokanovic told his press conference following the final whistle that the Whites would learn from the defeat and come back stronger.
The Serbian head coach said:
We wanted to start the competition with a positive result. We showed some positive things, and some negative things. It’s the first time we’ve tested ourselves at this level – we found more power, speed and quality, and we must adapt ourselves fast.
I can’t fault my players. They put everything into it. We created some chances. Crystal Palace’s keeper made a few great saves. We followed our style and moved the ball. On the defensive side, we found it hard to stop [Wilfried] Zaha and [Christian] Benteke, who showed quality.
He felt Palace’s experience of top flight football and their clinical finishing in the final third was the true difference between the sides:
Palace know this level better than us. We competed well and didn’t change our philosophy. Generally, I’m happy we followed the plan, but they punished us with speed, power and quality. For the first goal, [Jeffrey] Schlupp turned really quickly and smashed it in. For the second goal, we made a few mistakes and they finished the action and killed the game.
At this level, you normally pay an expensive price for mistakes. We’re in a process of working and learning, and I’m sure we’ll be better during the weeks in front of us. It’s a fantastic afternoon. We can’t start crying after the first day. Premier League is back at Craven Cottage after four years.
Jokanovic hailed the Fulham fans for their support and insisted his side would emerge stronger from the experience.
The atmosphere was fantastic. Our crowd pushed us, like always. It’s a shame that we can’t make them completely satisfied, but the fans know it’s not going to be easy. We’re ready for the challenge. We’re ready for the fight
Fulham were taught a harsh lesson in the realities of the Premier League as a clinical Crystal Palace side claimed their first top flight win at Craven Cottage since 1968 this afternoon.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s side dominated possession throughout the contest and looked more than a match for former Fulham manager Roy Hodgson’s outfit for much of the first hour, but the Eagles eventually showed the evidence of their Premier League class in both boxes to record what became a comfortable opening day win. Fulham began brightly and showed some classy touches in midfield, with Ivorian debutante Jean-Michael Seri to the fore, but they failed to add a cutting edge to their pretty approach play and found Wayne Hennessy in fine form in the Palace goal.
The home side made an encouraging start with Cyrus Christie, who had oceans of space in front of him down the right flank all afternoon, almost surprising Hennessy at his near post with a low shot from outside the box inside the first three minutes. Captain Tom Cairney, who faded as the match went on, played in Ryan Sessegnon down the left and the teenager’s deflected shot almost fell for Andre Schurrle but the German winger was unable to provide a decisive touch. The Whites should have gone ahead on thirteen minutes when Sessegnon’s smart through ball put Schurrle away but Aleksandar Mitrovic’s side-footed finish was palmed to safety by a diving Hennessey. From the ensuing corner, a clambering Mitrovic sent a header wide of the far post.
Palace soaked up the pressure and gradually began to get a foothold in the contest. Their first sight of goal fell to Andros Townsend, whose sighter from range was easily fielded by Fabri – preferred in goal to the deadline-day signing from Sevilla, Sergio Rico. Christian Benteke almost gave the visitors the lead with a trademark powerful header on the half hour, but the backpeddling Fabri was able to turn his effort on to the crossbar.
At the other end, Mitrovic was warming to the task. He almost marked his return to Craven Cottage as a permanent Fulham signing with a goal, wriggling away from the attentions of Tomkins, keeping his feet and placing a shot inside the far post but Hennessey pulled off another fine save. Palace went up the other end and opened the scoring with a lovely, flowing move. Patrick van Aaanholt guided a pass into the feet of Jeffrey Schlupp, who held off the otherwise excellent Calum Chambers to work a yard of space, and lashed a venomous finish into the roof of the net.
The goal galvanised Hodgson’s men. van Aanholt thought he had added a second with astonishing curler into the top corner from the right angle of the box, but an offside flag ruled it out. The former Chelsea full-back still might have handed the visitors a more comfortable cushion to take into the half-time interval, but Fabri snuffled his snapshot after he had burst past Joe Bryan brimming with attacking intent.
Fulham continued to pour numbers forward and the game’s major talking point arrived after an hour. Schurrle looked to have been felled in the box by a poor Mahmadou Sakho challenge after the German winger had stolen possession from the Palace centre back but Mike Dean theatrically waved away the appeals. Jokanovic was incensed on the touchline and swiftly introduced Aboubakar Kamara but Fulham struggled to find a way past Palace’s stubborn defence.
The Eagles were looking menacing in attack and might have doubled their lead when Wilfred Zaha left Maxime Le Marchand trailing in his wake only for Fabri to improvise and save with his feet. At the other end, Hennessey dived smartly to his right to snaffle Mitrovic’s glancing header from a delicious delivery by Bryan, who eventually succumbed to an untimely ankle injury. Jokanovic went for broke by throwing on attacker Luciano Vietto and the Argentinian showed some silky touches, not least in setting up Aboubakar Kamara for a rising curler from the edge of the box that drifted agonisingly over.
But Fulham’s hopes of a comeback were extinguished by a ghastly error from Fabri with ten minutes to play. He rushed off his line as the impressive Aaron Wan-Bissaka threaded a through ball towards Zaha but never looked likely to reach the ball before the Ivorian forward, instead allowing him the simplest of finishes to put the game to bed. Fulham, to their credit, continued to go forward with Hennessey producing another excellent stop to claw away a Sessegnon header in the final minute before Kamara lashed a finish into the side netting in injury time.
It wasn’t the start the Fulham faithful had been dreaming off, but there was more than enough to suggest the Whites could surprise a few opponents once their myriad of deadline day signings bed in.
FULHAM (4-3-3): Fabri; Christie, Bryan (Vietto 71), Chambers, Le Marchand; McDonald Seri (Johansen 82), Cairney; Schurrle (Kamara 61), R. Sessegnon, Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rico, Fosu-Mensah, Cisse, Kebano.
CRYSTAL PALACE (4-4-2): Hennessey; Wan-Bissaka, van Aaanholt (Souare 90), Tomkins, Sakho; Milivojevic, McArthur, Townsend (Kouyaté 88), Schlupp; Benteke (Sorloth 83), Zaha. Subs (not used): Guaita, Ward, Kelly, Riedewald.
BOOKED: Zaha, Schlupp.
GOALS: Schlupp (41), Zaha (79).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Birkenhead).