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Fulham U18s hit Foxes for eight

A brilliant hat-trick from Mika Biereth fired Fulham’s under 18s to an astonishing 8-0 win at Leicester City and kept the youngsters’ hopes of defending their Premier League title alive.

Steve Wigley’s side had the chance to go ahead inside the very first minute for the second week running. Where Kieron Bowie converted after just sixteen seconds against Reading, the Scottish forward was foiled by an excellent reaction save by Leicester goalkeeper Chituru Odunze after an incisive through ball from Mika Biereth.

The visitors made the breakthrough in the twelve minute thanks to a fine solo striker from skipper Ollie O’Neill. The Irish youth international slalomed away from several Foxes defenders before sliding a measured under Odunze from an acute angle. It was almost two shortly afterwards when Biereth rounded the goalkeeper and saw his shot scrambled off the goalline, with the referee waving away Fulham appeals for handball.

Luke Harris went close to doubling the lead when he headed Luciano D’Auria-Henry’s cross against the woodwork, but any frustration was shortlived. Wigley’s charges earned some further breathing space when Adrion Pajziti picked out Biereth and the eighteen year-old fired his tenth league goal of the campaign into the bottom corner. Biereth turned provider for Fulham’s third nine minutes before the break – supplying an inch-perfect cross that left Bowie with the simplest of finishes from close range.

It might have been worse for Leicester but for a couple of outstanding saves from Odunze, who punched away a drive from Biereth and tipping away another Bowie effort before half-time. Biereth doubled his tally after skipping away from the goalkeeper five minutes after the interval before laying another one for Bowie shortly afterwards.

Harris got himself on the scoresheet, poaching the Fulham’s sixth from a yard out after Odunze had kept out Bowie’s initial attempt. Substitute Olly Sandersen added a seventh shortly after being introduced from the bench forcing home after Biereth had headed a ball back across the face of goal. Fittingly, Biereth finished off the scoring by completing his hat-trick, rounding the goalkeeper and beating a covering defender to score after being released by a brilliant through pass from Matt Dibley-Dias.

Crystal Palace remain top of the table after recording their own emphatic win on the south coast – beating Brighton 5-1. But Fulham are three points behind the Eagles with a game in hand, and a far superior goal difference. The young Whites finish their season with two away games – at Norwich next Saturday afternoon and then against Chelsea on May 15th.

FULHAM U18s: Borto; D’Auria-Henry, Parkes, Bowat (Williams 66), Odutayo; Dibley-Dias, Harris, O’Neill; Bowie (Sanderson 71), Pajaziti (Okkas 77), Biereth. Subs (not used): Roberts, Lanquedoc.

Fulham ‘fell short,’ says Parker

Scott Parker was disappointed that Fulham ‘fell a bit short’ in tonight’s defeat by Leicester – but he is far from throwing in the towel when it comes to his side’s survival prospect.

Fulham were beaten by first half goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and James Justin and a majestic midfield performance from playmaker James Maddison at Craven Cottage. Parker told his post-match press conference that his side lacked penetration and overall quality and were picked off by their visitors.

I thought we huffed-and-puffed tonight. Their quality in the attacking third for their goals was evident. The detail in their counter attack with the decisions they made was excellent. We weren’t able to take our moments, not necessarily with shots, but little overloads. We fell a little bit short. We understand we need to start winning football matches – we’re at a stage where there is a clear focus. We move onto Saturday.

The Fulham boss still believes his side have the quality to survive and attests to the character of his team.

For large parts we had a control about us. We played some good stuff without causing them too many problems. People may say I’m mad, but I see a team that can win football matches. There are 17 games left this season, we’ve seen what a couple of results in a short space of time can do. Am I looking at a team that’s wilting to a slow death? Not at all. My team is fully committed to the job in hand.

We need to win games now. We want to give ourselves a fighting chance to stay in this division. This team have progressed extremely well. We’ve gone from a team that was written off to a team that has worked on certain problems. When you’re newly-promoted progression is what you need to work on. This is a great group of lads that are working their hardest. The way we win games is by putting in strong, confident performances. We can’t let defeats derail us.

Fulham eye Amartey deal

Fulham have made an offer for Leicester City midfielder Daniel Amartey, according to reports this afternoon.

The Foxes are willing to sell the 25 year-old, who has struggled for both fitness and form of late at the King Power Stadium, and is now not considered an integral part of Brendon Rodgers’ squad. Leicester value the Ghanaian international at around £5m and Fulham have held a long-standing interest in the former Djurgardens and Copenhagen man, having had approaches rebuffed last January.

Amartey signed for Leicester for around £6m in January 2016 and made five first-team appearances as the Foxes surprised everyone by winning the Premier League title under Claudio Ranieri. He succeeded Ngolo Kante in the holding midfield role the following season, making 35 appearances and scoring a single goal, a late leveller at Stoke City. He has suffered several injury setbacks at Leicester, breaking his ankle and being sidelined for nearly two years before making a goalscoring return in a pre-season friendly against Blackburn Rovers earlier this summer.

Amartey, who has won 26 caps for Ghana, helped the Black Stars finish fourth in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, where he was named in the team of the tournament. The powerful midfielder, who won the Danish title and two domestic cups during his team with Copenhagen, can also play in central defence, which remains a problem position for Scott Parker.

Leicester back in for Johnson

Leicester City are back in for Andy Johnson and have tabled a bid for the Fulham forward, according to Sky Sports.

Sven-Goran Eriksson is eager to sign a striker before the close of the transfer window and has set his sights on Johnson, having handed him his England debut, after failing to land several other targets. The 30 year-old is now into the final year of his contract at Craven Cottage and has been linked with moves to Queens Park Rangers and West Ham in recent weeks.

With Fulham’s own shortage of striking options, it would be a surprise if Martin Jol – who is seeking forward cover himself – would agree to let Johnson leave.

Leicester lining up Pantsil move

English Championship side Leicester City have joined the chase to sign Ghana international defender John Paintsil but his high salary could scupper the deal.

The 29-year-old’s contract with Premier League side Fulham will not be extended when it expires this summer.

His availability on a free transfer has alerted several clubs in England, France and Germany with Premier League sides in the frame.

West Brom boss Roy Hodgson is keen reuniting with the right-back who was excelled during the coach’s reign at Fulham.

Queens Park Rangers are also reported to be keen on Paintsil but Leicester have entered to race to enable them boost their squad for next season.

However, his £25,000 per week wage demands may be a stumbling block.

The Ghana international may have to lower his expectations if he wants to join coach Sven-Goran Eriksson at Leicester who are keen on promotion next season.

Paintsil is keen to stay in England as his family is settled in the European country but Leicester will not pay unreasonably high wages.

Paintsil has been capped 66 times by Ghana and has played in the Premier League since 2006, when he joined West Ham United from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

He made only 19 appearances for the Hammers before switching to Craven Cottage in 2008.

He was a virtual ever-present under Roy Hodgson but was banished from the first team picture after making early season errors when Mark Hughes took over.