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Leeds lining up Reed move

Leeds are keen to sign Fulham midfielder Harrison Reed this summer, according to the Daily Mail.

The combative midfielder impressed at the heart of Scott Parker’s midfield even though the Cottagers were relegation from the top flight. Reed, who joined Fulham for £6m from Southampton last summer after a successful loan spell at Craven Cottage, made 33 appearances last season having shaken off early injuries to become a key member of the side.

The 26 year-old has spoken of his desire to stay with the club and help Fulham bounce back to the Premier League at the first attempt, but the lure of immediate top flight football – as well as working with Marcelo Bielsa – may prove too strong. Reed has three years to run on his current contract – with the club holding an option to extend that deal by a further year.

Bamford and Raphinha flatten feeble Fulham

Patrick Bamford and Raphinha punished some sloppy Fulham defending to set Leeds’ season back on track as Marcelo Bielsea recorded his first win in London at the sixteenth attempt. The defeat was particularly damaging to the home side, desperate as they were to put pressure on their relegation rivals Newcastle and Brighton, who meet tomorrow night in a high stakes clash at the foot of the table, but Scott Parker’s side couldn’t make the most of a lifeline handed to them just before half time by Joachim Andersen’s first goal for the club.

The Danish defender’s instinctive finish from a corner – which exposed Leeds’ own vulnerabilities from set plays – gave Fulham hope after they had been completely outplayed in a frantic first half hour at Craven Cottage. They struggled to cope with the visitors’ relentlessly pressing and looked utterly bamboozled by the swift start made by Bielsa’s men. It was something of a surprise that it took until the 29th minute for Leeds to go in front. The Yorkshire outfit had two goals disallowed by the video assistant referee – Luke Ayling’s far post header was chalked off when the technology determined that Tyler Roberts had tiptoed beyond the Fulham defensive line before putting in a cross, whilst Raphinha was comfortably offside before firing home from the right angle of the box.

Fulham failed to heed those warnings and, in truth, this disorganised defensive display harked back to their horrific start to the season. Leeds finally grabbed the lead their dominance had more than merited when Jack Harrison fizzed in a low cross from a quick throw-in and Bamford fired his fourteenth goal of an outstanding campaign past Alphonse Areola after he had darted between Antonee Robinson and Tosin Adarabioyo. That the hosts had been denied the opening goal moments earlier when Illan Meslier’s instinctive reaction save and an Ayling goal-line clearance prevented Josh Maja’s shot-on-the-turn from crossing of the line only served to emphasise the fine margins that exist in the top flight.

Parker’s men are nothing if not resilient, however. They barged their way back into a contest that appeared to be well beyond them when Andersen won a tug of war with Ayling at a Lookman corner and guided a volley home from ten yards. Suddenly, the home side had the momentum and it took another terrific Meslier save to prevent Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa from firing Fulham in front. Aleksandar Mitrovic was sent on for the second half and the Whites began on the front foot, forcing a couple of corners, and then – after Mario Lemina had marauded his way along the byline – Ademola Lookman somehow contrived to miscue wastefully right in front of the target.

It was to prove a costly miss. Half a minute later, Leeds were back in front. Kalvin Phillips stripped Lemina of possession in midfield, Andersen sold himself by going to ground as Bamford brought the ball forward and his measured pass sent Raphinha into the penalty area. The winger didn’t have a lot of space in which to operate but he slipped between Adarabioyo and Robinson and sneaked his shot past Areola and the near post at pace. It was a poacher’s finish that could have huge ramifications at the foot of the table.

Fulham kept throwing bodies forward but they created precious little – with Lookman’s tame shot at Meslier their only serious chance – whilst leaving themselves open to a sucker punch. Bielsa’s side, whose sparkling approach play was impressive throughout, should have sealed the game on the counter-attack in the closing stages with the rapid Raphinha laying on good chances for both Stuart Dallas and Ezgjan Alioski, who was denied by a splendid save from Areola. The worry for Parker, who probably got his tactics wrong this evening, is that games are beginning to run out – however spirited Fulham’s fight against relegation has been so far.

FULHAM (4-3-3): Areola; Aina (Tete 72), Robinson, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Reed (Loftus-Cheek 63), Anguissa, Lemina; Cavaleiro, Lookman, Maja (Mitrovic 45). Subs (not used): Fabri, Hector, Odoi, Ream, Kongolo, Bryan.

BOOKED: Lemina, Loftus-Cheek.

GOAL: Andersen (38).

LEEDS UNITED (4-1-4-1): Meslier; Ayling, Alioski, Llorente, Strujik; Phillips; Dallas, Roberts (Koch 90), Raphinha, Harrison; Bamford (Klich 77). Subs (not used): Casilla, Berardi, Shackleton, Jenkins, Poveda, Costa, Gelhardt.

BOOKED: Bamford, Phillips.

GOALS: Bamford (29), Raphinha (58).

REFEREE: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).

VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire).

Two changes for Fulham against Leeds

Fulham face Leeds United under the lights at Craven Cottage tonight in the first of three games that offer an opportunity for Scott Parker’s men to pick up some vital points before facing Arsenal and Chelsea.

Parker has made two changes from the side that lost to Manchester City 3-0 last weekend, with Kenny Tete dropped to the bench having just earned a recall to the Dutch national side. American international Antoneee Robinson takes his place in the starting eleven, with Ola Aina set to switch to right back in order to accommodate him. Chelsea loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek also finds himself starting on the bench underneath the ongoing Riverside development, with Josh Maja regaining his spot up front.

Here is the Fulham line-up:

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That line-up suggests that Fulham will play a 4-3-3 as they look to battle Leeds for possession and control of the game. Fulham start with the almost ever-constant goalkeeper and centre-back combination of Alphonse Areola and Joachim Andersen, who have both also been called-up to his national side, alongside Tosin Adarabioyo. With Aina and Robinson at full back, Fulham will look to exploit Leeds’ high pressing system with explosive, overlapping full-backs.

Parker has picked a midfield trio of Anguissa, Lemina and Reed. This is a hard-working combination designed to take on Leeds’ lauded pressing exploits whilst also trying to cut off the passing triangles for which Marcelo Bielsa is famed. Parker has once again rotated his front three, with Lookman on the left wing, Cavaleiro on the right wing and Maja in the centre. Despite lacking Bobby Decordova-Reid, Fulham’s top scorer with seven goals, these attackers should offer pace and power and pose a threat to the visitors’ high defensive line.

Bielsa has named an unchanged side from the eleven that started in Leeds’ 0-0 draw with Chelsea on Saturday. The Argentinian has successfully implemented his high-octane, furious pressing and passing style into the top flight and it won’t come as too much of a surprise to Fulham, having been regular opponents of Bielsa in the Championship.

Here is the Leeds United line-up:

Leeds are without several key names – with Liam Cooper, Pablo Hernandez and summer signing Rodrigo all missing – so there’s very little rotation in the line-up. They should start with the same 4-1-4-1 formation as last weekend, as hot prospect Meslier starts between the posts, with Llorente and Struijk starting ahead of him in central defence. Alioski will start at left back with the dependable with Luke Ayling on the right and the pair will have instructions to try and push forward from the off – aiming to pin Fulham’s own offensive full back deep into their own half.

Kalvin Phillips starts in a deep-lying midfielder role, with Stuart Dallas playing as a playmaker ahead of ahead of him, whilst Tyler Roberts will likely become a second striker, running onto balls that Patrick Bamford, who has shaken off fitness concerns to start, may knock down to him. Bamford, the former Chelsea man who was very unlucky to not make Gareth Southgate’s England squad given fine form on his return to the top flight, will be flanked by Harrison on his left and Raphinha on his right.

This promises to be an exciting game and history suggests they might be plenty of goals, but what do you think of the line-ups? And, what do you think the score will be?

Fulham are ‘raring to go’ against Leeds, says Aina

Ola Aina insists that Fulham’s second half collapse against Manchester City will have no impact on the side as they prepare for Friday night’s meeting with Leeds United.

Having held the champions’ elect quite comfortably in a competitive first half, Fulham conceded three goals in thirteen second half minutes to slump to defeat at Craven Cottage on Saturday. Aina told FFCTV that the Whites were already looking forward to putting things right against Marcelo Bielsa’s men:

“We’re raring to go, if we had Leeds in an hour we’d be ready to go. We’ll just recover well and get ready for that one. The position we’re in, we have to just take it game by game. Good or bad results, we have to take it and move on and look forward to the next one, because ultimately there’s a goal that we need to achieve at the end of the season, so we can’t dwell on bad results.

“First half I felt like we really made it tough for them. We gave them a tough first half. I felt like we shut off their options, and we created a few openings of our own. And obviously in the second half, it was a few mistakes that end the game for us really. We haven’t had mistakes like that for a long time, since the beginning of the season.

“It’s frustrating that we made them because it’s not in our character, but these things happen. We’re only human. We have to take it on the chin and just move on. The mistakes have happened and it killed us a bit, but I feel the team still gave a good fight.

“Everyone knows about Man City, everyone knows they’re such a good side and they’ve got good depth in their squad, but we felt like we could’ve definitely got something from the game. If we don’t make the mistakes then we do give them a run for their money, in my opinion. But we have to just take it as it is and move onto Leeds.

The night Tom Cairney became a Fulham hero

As football fans, there are some nights you remember as clearly as yesterday regardless of the passage of time. Tuesday 7 March 2017 will be forever etched into my memory. Slavisa Jokanovic’s Fulham side had played themselves into serious promotion contention, winning four of their last five fixtures, to move into seventh spot some six points off the play-off places but they faced a stiff test with the visit of fourth-placed Leeds, who had set the pace at the top of the table earlier in the season.

I was a nervous wreck throughout the day and appealed to my then boss for some blessed relief at around 3.30pm. He granted me an early exit from our office just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament and I got the underground to Hammersmith to begin the usual pre-match routine. A couple of pints in the Chancellor’s, a nervous chat with Carl and Jim behind the bar, and I decided to stroll towards the Cottage way ahead of schedule, taking in the dipping sun, and arranging to meet an old friend in Stevenage Road.

That Fulham lifer was beset by car trouble and barely made kick off. Opposite the ticket office, I watched as a steady stream of fans picked up their tickets and encountered a crestfallen group of Belgian supporters, who had seen their plans for a first pilgrimage to Fulham’s historic home scuppered by the club’s sales restrictions, which had principally been designed to deny Leeds supporters access to the home areas. As I entered to see what could be done, I heard one member of the group trying to prove his Fulham credentials by reciting the squad numbers. It took about fifteen minutes for me to convince the ticket office staff that I – as a season ticket holder – could both had the privileges to buy these guys the tickets and would vouch for them in the event of any trouble. Never had I been greeted as enthusiastically as when I emerged with the tickets for them and a few more celebratory beers were sunk at the back of the Hammersmith End before it was time to take in the action.

The game began disastrously. Leeds, shorn of the services of the injured Chris Wood, went ahead through a freak goal when the usually dependable Tim Ream sliced his attempted clearance from Kyle Bartley’s free-kick beyond David Button in the fifth minute. The Fulham goalkeeper then saved smartly from Gaeteno Berardi before carelessly miskicking and almost presenting Kalvin Phillips with a second before the home side finally settled. Ryan Fredericks gradually got free down the right, with Neeskens Kebano heading wide, Tom Cairney shooting fractionally off target from a cleverly worked free kick and then Kebano being incredibly denied an equaliser when his rasping volley bounced off the underside of the crossbar and over the line – only for Lee Probert to wave play on.

Leeds spurned a pair of half chances to increase their lead, with Alfonso Pedraza rattling the post when clean through, before Jokanovic’s men reasserted themselves. Kebano did brilliantly to work some space where there appeared to be none on the left angle of the area but ruffled the side netting with his shot. Scott Malone shot straight at the goalkeeper and Stefan Johansen’s close-range header was diverted wide. In the last minute of normal time, Philipps was dismissed for a second yellow card after crudely taking down Scott Parker just outside the box. Rob Green made splendid saves from Johansen and Cyriac in quick succession and you felt it just wasn’t going to be Fulham’s day.

But that was reckoning without Tom Cairney. The classy playmaker, released from Elland Road at the edge of sixteen because he was too small, had made a habit of scoring spectacular goals since he swapped Blackburn for south west London in 2015, but now the pressure was on. The five minutes of stoppage time were almost up. Both Fredericks and Sessegnon had pushed well forward, leaving space for Cairney to tiptoe into. Leeds offered him a little too much room and curled a fabulous finish into the top corner to bring Fulham level.

The celebrations were frenetic and raucous, matching Cairney’s moment of magic in their intensity. The number ten charged towards the Hammersmith End delirious with Fredericks and Sessegnon leaping all over him and punching the air in delight. I was caught up in all the emotion, ending up in the gangway with the beaming Belgians, several of whom were in a bundle on the floor.

It was the sort of scene that had accompanied many a Cairney goal over the course of that season. His family were a familiar part of those frenzied celebrations in many an away end up and down the country – and it was already clear how much Cairney was enjoying his football in Jokanovic’s mesmeric midfield. That last-gasp equaliser dramatically changed the course of Fulham’s season – sparking the Whites’ late run into the top six, where they clinched a play-off spot at the expense of Garry Monk’s men, who ran out of steam as the finish line approached.

Fulham didn’t go up that year, denied by a very debatable penalty in the semi-final second leg at Reading, and the image of a tearful Cairney clapping the fans after the final whistle, with home supporters already invading the Madjeski Stadium pitch, remains seared on my mind. The journey home had me contemplating life without the club’s classiest unpicker of defences but Cairney stayed, inheriting the captaincy from Parker, and went on to lead the Whites to two play-off final successes at Wembley.

Having suffered a setback in his latest recovery from a persistent knee problem, Cairney will be missing from Parker’s line-up as Fulham look to spring a surprise at Liverpool this afternoon and give their survival bid a real shot in the arm. But the Scottish schemer’s place in Fulham folklore is already assured. He’s hit many a memorable finish for the Whites, including the one that beat Aston Villa on an unforgettable afternoon at the national stadium, but for pure drama the Leeds leveller takes some beating. It was the night when classy Cairney became Fulham’s talismanic figure.