Select Page

Fulham 1-0 Birmingham City: Player ratings

Not the most convincing of performances from Fulham, but grinding out results is what helps sides climb the Championship table. Back-to-back home wins, as well as consecutive clean sheets at Craven Cottage, are not to sniffed at – however nervy they made us feel.

Marcus Bettinelli: Slavisa Jokanovic finally made the change a vocal section of the Fulham support have been advocating for some time, but the rust from four months on the sidelines will take a little while to wear off. If you are looking for a modern sweeper keeper, adept at the short passing and diagonal switches of play, then Bettinelli isn’t your man. He’s a more than creditable Championship goalkeeper with a wealth of experience having come through the Fulham academy and he bailed out Tomas Kalas early in the second half by sprinting off his line to beat Lukas Jutkiewicz to a poor header. 6

Ryan Fredericks: Put the disappointment of being turned inside out by Sergi Canos for Brentford’s equaliser last week behind him with a typical rampaging performance at right back. There are still question marks about Fredericks’ defensive decision making but a poor Birmingham side didn’t really examine those – he blocked a number of second half crosses. His most telling contributions came as he flew into the final third to add that extra attacking dimension, but the final ball was lacking. 6

Tomas Kalas: Looked far more assured than at Griffin Park – and part of that was down to having Tim Ream alongside him once again. Relished the physical challenge against Jutkiewicz and rarely lost anything in the air against the Polish striker. That heart-fluttering attempt at a header back to Bettinelli aside, Kalas was as commanding as he had been last season – and it’s been a while since Fulham fans were able to say that. 7

Tim Ream: The American was imperious on his return to the heart of the Fulham defence. This was a man of the match performance full of desire and class, especially in the way he escaped tricky situations with a drop of the shoulder. At his best, the former Bolton defender looks effortless with the ball at his feet and gives a possession hungry side another distribution option – and this was a nearly faultless performance. 9

Ryan Sessegnon: Some of the seventeen year-old’s impact on proceedings is reduced from the outset when he operates at left back but this was another mature display from one of the hottest youth properties in English football. He fulfilled his defensive duties admirably, producing a couple of excellent clearances when the pressure was on, and stepped into central defence well on a couple of occasions. Still got forward regularly, starting the move that led to Ojo’s goal, and could have had at least one of his own with a bit more good fortune in the box. 7

Kevin McDonald: Blotted his copybook by failing to deal with a second half cross and then conceding what could have been a match-turning penalty with a rash, high challenge on Emilio Nsue. It was impetuous and nervy, the opposite of what McDonald has been since he arrived at Craven Cottage last summer – and so far removed from the rest of a quietly effective afternoon where he put out fires in front of the back four. In the first half, the Scottish schemer found himself high up the pitch and nearly created two goals for Ryan Sessegnon. 6

Ollie Norwood: Sprayed the ball about effectively as the second deep-lying midfield pivot in Slavisa Jokanovic’s new forward-less midfield shape, but given his technical ability you crave the moment when the Northern Irish international takes a game by the scruff of the neck and hurts the opposition. He was patient and pretty in possession but against a side more than happy to absorb pressure before launching a counter, Fulham were probably after more incision in his passing. 6

Tom Cairney: It’s still so good to see the captain out there, pulling the strings again, especially after his knee injury turned out to be far more of a problem that everyone thought. Birmingham blunted Fulham’s playmaker effectively – shutting down the room in which he had to operate and offering the odd late challenge – and this was a rather deliberative and laboured display from Cairney. You sense that he’s getting there game by game. 6

Stefan Johansen: The Norwegian isn’t being helped by a groin injury he’s still not over or the fact that Jokanovic seems to have earmarked him as a false nine – a role he just seems unsuited for – at the moment. Toiled manfully today and was far more successful than in the derby last week, attracting defenders at will and linking the play expertly with his midfielders as well as popping up in the wide positions, but still faded in the second period. 6

Sheyi Ojo: Looked lively again as a winger who regularly popped up right across the front line – and scored a beautiful goal that showcased both the youngster’s anticipation and his predatory instincts. Ojo appears hungry to make up for the time he’s lost due to injury this season and Fulham are certainly benefiting from his energy and desire. His instinctive finish to beat Stockdale from close range was almost as impressive as the clever run that earned him that extra yard of space – and he was a constant threat to the Blues defence. 8

Neeskens Kebano: An excellent 45 minutes from the Congolese winger, who looked inconsolable as he limped off the field on the stroke of half time. Delivered an excellent low cross that allowed Ojo to poach the winning goal and made have grabbed at least one for himself on another day. Denied by a brilliant reaction save from Stockdale when he probably felt he should’ve done better – and Kebano’s mood wouldn’t have improved when the injury he sustained turned out to be so serious as to force him off. 7

Substitutes:

Aboubakar Kamara (on for Kebano, 45): The archetypal Kamara cameo this afternoon. Lively when he came on, firing three shots wildly off target, but also showing plenty of tricks and flicks in tight situations. He caused the Blues’ centre backs all sorts of problems before becoming more peripheral as the visitors pushed for an equaliser, but showed enough to suggest he should be in contention for a starting place for the rest of the December programme. 6

Rui Fonte (on for Johansen, 79): Had very little time to impose himself on proceedings but this was an encouraging quarter of an hour from the Portuguese. Held the ball up well with his first touch, won a couple of free kicks and directed a downward header just wide from a corner. Dovetailed well with Kamara and his fresh legs helped take Fulham up the pitch, which was crucial when they came under that late Birmingham bombardment. 7

Marcelo Djalo (on for Ojo, 90): Just had the five added minutes to see out but contributed a couple of clearing headers and clearances as Fulham hung on for those precious points N/A