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Silva salutes Fulham’s progress

Marco Silva praised Fulham’s ‘mentality, desire and work rate’ after watching the Whites match Premier League Southampton in their latest pre-season friendly.

The Championship side claimed a creditable draw thanks to Neeskens Kebano’s late spot-kick after falling behind to Shane Long’s close-range finish shortly before half time. Silva has been pleased with the work of his squad during pre-season and, whilst pleased with the showing against top flight opposition, preferred to focus on the performance of his own players during a post-match interview with FFCTV:

“It was one more game for us. We are working in the same way that we did for the other matches. The boys have shown mentality, desire, work rate – everything was there – and we are starting to see some things that have been working on in the games. It is a matter of process. We have to keep improving, there are many things to improve. Our players are working really hard.

The most important thing for us is what we can do with our players – respecting our opponents, of course – but, to be honest, our focus is on our players, what we are able to do and the things we must improve. It is part of football to analyse the opponents, but we answered their questions this afternoon and for a big part of the match we were able to compete with them in the way I want to compete. In general, again we did well.”

Silva is content with Fulham’s progress two weeks after taking over from Scott Parker at Motspur Park – but is targeting further improvements ahead of the final pre-season fixture against Charlton Athletic next weekend.

“We finished the second week today. With some games, we are seeing more and more of the things we are preparing day by day. Of course, next Monday I want to see more and more. We will prepare well for the final pre-season match against Charlton. There are doing all the things that I am asking of them and they are doing well.”

The Portuguese head coach is already looking forward to the prospect of taking charge of his new side at Craven Cottage.

“It is the most important thing about football – when we talk about fans. The last few months was a tough time for everybody, when you feel that you can back to the stadium is good. It will be my first match at Craven Cottage, a special moment, and to be play with fans will be fantastic for us. Because football without them is nothing – we will be stronger with them behind us.”

He also praised the quality of Fulham’s first two signings – goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga and winger Harry Wilson – whilst stressing the need to bring in more players before the end of the transfer window.

“When we add some players, we do our homework to sign them. It is always in our mind to improve our squad. We have quality, some positions we have to improve. I like competition, I want us to be stronger so the players have to fight for each position. We are talking about two players – Gazzaniga and Harry – who have real quality, they want to come to Fulham Football Club and this is really important for me, they want to be here, they want to join this project and they are two very good first signings for us and we must work to sign more players until the end of the month.”

Kebano pleased with Fulham’s preparations

Neeskens Kebano feels Fulham’s draw at Southampton shows that the Whites are shaping up well under new manager Marco Silva.

The Congolese winger ensured Fulham emerged with a creditable draw against Premier League opposition by calmly converting a second half penalty. Kebano insisted he felt no pressure stepping up for the spot kick – having been a regular regular penalty taker earlier in his career – and was encouraged by his side’s showing.

He told the club’s official website after the final whistle:

“It was a very good game against a good team. I think we did quite well today. We drew – there were some positive things – and I enjoyed the game.
We are just trying to do our best against the all teams we are going to play against. We did well and we are carrying on in our preparations.”

Kebano admitted that the new regime had changed some elements of Fulham’s training and approach since Silva replaced Scott Parker but believes the squad is ‘in a good place’ ahead of the start of the Championship campaign.

We are all getting better, we’ve been building up our fitness well. We’ve been working hard under the sun and all them things, double sessions sometimes as well and we are in a good place now. It is a bit different. It is very good, I think everyone is happy with the way he works.

The popular winger is looking forward to finishing off Fulham’s pre-season programme against Charlton Athletic next weekend in front of the Craven Cottage faithful again.

“It has been ages since we have been able to play in front of them, so it will be a good moment to share again.”

Kebano spot-kick secures Southampton draw

A second half spot-kick from Neeskens Kebano secured a draw for Fulham in their latest pre-season friendly at Premier League Southampton this afternoon.

The Congolese winger coolly sent Fraser Forster the wrong way from twelve yards after Anthony Knockaert had been brought down by Moussa Djenepo to cancel out Shane Long’s tap-in shortly after half time. It was a creditable performance from Marco Silva’s side against a strong Southampton line-up at the Saints’ Staplewood training campus.

The hosts settled quickly and made all of the early running. They might have gone in front inside five minutes but Fabri made a fine save to thwart Theo Walcott after the former England forward had been played in by Che Adams. From the ensuing corner, Jack Stephens spurned a glorious opportunity to open the scoring at the far post.

Fabio Carvalho squandered Fulham’s clearest opening of the first half, starting wide when under pressure from two defenders, after latching onto a good cross from Antonee Robinson. Fabri almost gifted a great chance to Nathan Tella when the Saints midfielder closed down the Fulham goalkeeper but the Spaniard was able to just about clear his lines. The former Besiktas gloveman made a good save just before the break, tipping over Tella’s header from a dangerous James Ward-Prowse cross.

Southampton made a series of changes at half-time, but Fulham had no excuses for switching off so swiftly after the restart after Silva had elected to offer his starting eleven further minutes. Michael Obafemi, operating at left back, got forward to good effect to create the opening goal with a low cross that the experienced Long could hardly fail to convert from six yards.

Kebano sliced wide at the back post after Knockaert had conjured up an opportunity for an immediate riposte and Carvalho had an effort blocked after excellent approach play from the Congolese international. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was unlucky not to level matters shortly afterwards when a brilliant bit of individual skill saw him latch onto Knockaert’s ball, beat his man and shoot for the far corner, only to be denied by a fine Forster save.

Djenepo had an effort deflected into the side netting at the other end on the hour mark and Tim Ream did well to scramble a Long effort away from his own goalline after the Irish striker had slipped around Fabri, but Fulham looked more threatening as the match went on. They got their reward when Djenepo’s clumsy challenge allowed Kebano to equalise from the penalty spot and Anguissa would have won it at the death with a piledriver from twenty yards but for another outstanding Forster save.

SOUTHAMPTON (4-2-2-2): McCarthy (Forster 45); Walker-Peters (Valery 45), Perraud (Djenepo 45), Stephens (Bednarek 45), Salisu (Olufunwa 77); Romeu (Diallo 45), Ward-Prowse (Armstrong 45); Walcott (Obafemi 45), Elyounoussi (Redmond 45); Tella (Long 45), Adams (Ings 45).

GOAL: Long (47).

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Fabri; Tete (Christie 83), Robinson (Bryan 70), Mawson (Adarabioyo 56), Ream (Le Marchand 70); Francois (Seri 70), Onomah (Anguissa 56); Knockaert (Ablade 83), Kebano (Stansfield 83), Carvalho; Mitrovic (Kamara 70). Subs (not used): L. Ashby-Hammond.

GOAL: Kebano (pen 78).

Parker pleased with Carvalho’s class

Scott Parker felt Fulham’s disappointing defeat at Southampton summed up their frustrating season as a whole.

The Whites were well beaten on the south coast despite having plenty of the play – and the Fulham head coach lamented costly defensive errors that gave his side far too much to do.

He told his post-match press conference at St. Mary’s: “Today was a snapshot of our season. At times we played well, but the two goals were disappointing. The first and second goals were disappointing in terms of defensive habits. We got ourselves back into the game at 2-1. After that goal we had an ascendancy about us and had some half chances.”

There was one shining positive in the performance of teenage midfielder Fabio Carvalho, who scored a fine consolation goal on his first senior start for the club.

“Fabio didn’t surprise me. He’s in the team because we’re searching for goals and something different to put the ball in the net. He stepped into the side and showed he can do that. He’s been scoring goals at under-23 level and he’s shown it in training. He deserved it. I’m delighted for Fab, he was a shining light today, that was a massive plus. He’s someone you see who has quality and he’s creative with opportunities. He brings energy, he’s got a big future here and we look forward to seeing him more often.”

Saints pile on the agony

If Scott Parker was seeking some solace on the south coast after Fulham succumbed to relegation earlier this week, it didn’t arrive at St. Mary’s. Southampton swept to a comfortable victory – their margin established by Che Adams’ first half strike and a first Saints goal for Nathan Tella seconds after coming off the bench – that emphasised the size of the rebuild required in west London this summer as the Championship beckons. Even the silver lining of a first senior goal for talented teenager Fabio Carvalho, which briefly threatened an unlucky comeback, was swiftly followed by a strike from substitute Theo Walcott to put clear water between the sides once again.

Parker’s caustic comments following relegation – and his assertion in a pre-match press conference that he had yet to speak with the club’s ownership – suggested that his own future is still to be resolved. Fulham have plenty of business to take care of behind the scenes, but the absence of a genuine striker from the start, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Josh Maja left on the bench, meant this side had an experimental look. In truth, with both sides have little to play for, this resembled a low-key pre-season friendly – and there was very little quality in front of goal in a turgid first half.

Referee Craig Pawson seemed to enter into the charitable spirit, ignoring a succession of hefty tackles before eventually cautioning Joachim Andersen for a clumsy foul near to the by-line on Stuart Armstrong. That allowed James Ward-Prowse to whip in one of his dangerous set pieces and Fulham’s defending from the free-kick was shambolic. Adams didn’t need to do anything special to lose Ola Aina, who had one of his poorest games in a Fulham shirt, and sweep a half volley into the net from six yards out.

Ward-Prowse was then denied a trademark free-kick goal, with Alphonse Areola making a magnificent save and, right at the end of the half, Danny Ings almost doubled Saints’ lead. The forward latched onto a precise pass from Takumi Minamino, kept his feet to round the goalkeeper but his cross-cum-shot was headed clear by Joachim Andersen. Fulham’s brightest moments came from Carvalho, whose energy around the penalty area kept the home defence occupied, but his shot after a clever backheel from Ivan Cavaleiro lacked the power necessary to beat Alex McCarthy.

The second half followed a similar pattern. Fulham saw plenty of possession, but as so often during this campaign, couldn’t find enough penetration in the final third. Ralph Hassenhuttl’s side didn’t have that problem and might have been further in front shortly after the interval only for Areola to deny Nathan Redmond after the winger had cut in dangerously from the left flank. You felt a second goal wasn’t long in coming and it arrived after a slick move that followed Bobby Decordova-Reid giving the ball away and saw a purposeful run from Armstrong find Kyle Walker-Peters down the right and the full-back’s low cross put a simple finish on a plate for the recently introduced Tella.

A few brave blocks prevented Fulham from getting a foothold in the contest. Decordova-Reid produced a gorgeous pass to unlock the Southampton defence only for Jack Stephens to deny Cavaleiro and Salisu arrived just in the nick of time to close down Decordova-Reid when he went through on goal. Joe Bryan drilled an effort wide from long range, but Fulham’s likeliest source of goal still looked like Carvalho, who had been switched to a number ten role in the second period.

The Lisbon-born England youth international had sparkled on a couple of senior substitute appearances earlier in the season after stellar displays for Fulham’s under 18 and under 23 sides and he lit up his first Premier League start with a smartly taken goal in the 75th minute. Having began the move around the halfway line, Carvalho surged away from Stevens to reach Decordova-Reid’s through ball and fired high into the net. Having scored on his debut for Fulham’s under 16s, under 18s and under 23s, perhaps we should have expected this precocious talent to find a way to mark this auspicious occasion, but it was still a special moment.

Any hope of a stirring comeback quickly evaporated when Walcott grabbed a third with eight minutes left. It was too easy for Southampton to play through the remnants of the away side’s defence – Armstrong’s probing ball brought the lively Tella into play and the youngster unselfishly laid it off from a shooting position for Walcott, with an untimely deflection off the unfortunate Bryan leaving Areola with no chance. Carvalho’s cameo might have been pleasing but there can be no getting away from the fact that Fulham have exited the top flight with a whimper at odds with all their fighting talk.

SOUTHAMPTON (4-4-2): McCarthy; Walker-Peters, Salisu, Stephens, Vestergaard; Ward-Prowse, Armstrong (Diallo 78), Minamino (Walcott 76), Redmond; Ings (Tella 58), Adams. Subs (not used): Forster, Ferry, Ramsay, Djenepo, Obafemi, N’Lundulu.

GOALS: Adams (27), Tella (60), Walcott (82).

FULHAM (3-4-2-1): Areola; Tete, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Decordova-Reid, Cavaleiro, Aina (Bryan 62), Reed; Anguissa (Lookman 63), Onomah; Carvalho. Subs (not used): Rodak, Hector, Odoi, Ream, Loftus-Cheek, Mitrovic.

BOOKED: Andersen.

GOAL: Carvalho (75).

REFEREE: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)

VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).