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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).

Fulham U18s hit Saints for six

Photo: Thomas Lang

Braces from Jay Stansfield and Michael Olakigbe helped Fulham’s under 18s hit Southampton for six at the LSE this morning.

The Whites were in command from the outset, with Stansfield at the heart of most of their threatening moves, and strikes from skipper Idris Odutayo and Scottish forward Kieron Bowie as well as the ex-Exeter teenager gave the hosts a commanding 3-0 lead by half-time.

Odutayo almost headed Fulham in front inside the first minute but the defender’s effort was scrambled off the Southampton goalline. Steve Wigley’s side went ahead with their very next attack when Luke Harris rattled the crossbar from an Olakigbe corner and the left back supplied a simple finish from the rebound.

Fulham could quickly have extended their lead with Oliver Wright blocking a Harris shot after he had linked up well with Bowie and the lively Olakigbe flashed a drive wide shortly afterwards. Stansfield’s first sight of goal saw a speculative shot bravely blocked by Will Tanner but you felt it was a matter of time before the young Whites doubled their advantage.

Stansfield was the architect with a glorious cross that Bowie gleefully converted from six yards out. The England youth international then seized on a dreadful mistake from Wright to roll home a straightforward finish and Fulham could conceivably have gone in at half-time further in front had Imani Lanquedoc kept his strike on target from the edge of the box and when Harris stabbed wide at the back post.

Stansfield, whose comeback from ankle surgery is progressing impressively, laid on the fourth goal with another sumptuous delivery that Olakigbe lashed home gloriously on the volley. Barely a minute later, Stansfield added a fifth with an ice-cool right-footed finish before substitute Jaylan Wildbore spurned a couple of good openings within moments of coming on. Olakigbe completed the rout with a clinical finish with eight minutes remaining – making the most of a kind deflection to round off an excellent individual display.

FULHAM UNDER 18s: Borto; D’Auria-Henry (Tanton 68), Parkes, Williams, Odutayo; Caton (Okkas 62), Lanquedoc, Harris; Bowie, Olakigbe, Stansfield (Wildbore 68). Subs (not used): Araujo, Sanderson.

GOALS: Odutayo (2), Bowie (16), Stansfield (27, 62), Olakigbe (61, 82).

SOUTHAMPTON UNDER 18s: Wright; Tizzard, Payne, Davis, Carson; Wright, Edwards (Attridge 79), Finnigan (Ballard 71), Ross-Lang, Squires; Pearce (Dibling 63). Subs (not used): Reach, Hewlett.

REFEREE: Stuart Kyle.

‘Fulham let two points slip away,’ says Gray

Fulham assistant manager Stuart Gray felt the Whites ‘let two points slip away’ after their goalless draw with Southampton at Craven Cottage this afternoon.

Gray, a former Southampton manager, was in joint-charge on the touchline with first team coach Matt Wells after Scott Parker was forced to self-isolate following the news that a member of his family had tested positive for coronavirus. Gray, who spoke to Sky Sports after the final whistle, said he was proud of Fulham’s strong performance against high-flying opposition but believed they could have snatched a late victory:

Very much so. I just spoke to the manager – he’s disappointed that we haven’t got the three points. Some of our play deserved the three points. You could see at the end of the game, the Southampton manager’s reaction – I think they were happy just to get the point. We probably just let ourselves down in the final third with our final ball at the times but the effort, the commitment from the players was fantastic and that’s four games unbeaten now and in the Premier League that’s a big achievement.

Gray feels that Fulham have now adapted to life in the top flight having made a difficult start – and was full of praise for the spirit shown by his players.

Probably just the turnaround and having enough time with the players. They’re all buying into it now, working so hard off the ball to win possession back. Today, the effort and the commitment was fantastic – just that last piece of the jigsaw was putting the ball in the net.

He also felt both Southampton’s goals, ruled out for offside, wouldn’t stand.

They say these things balance themselves over the season, but we were very confident that the lad was offside. You could tell by our defender’s reaction. It is one of these moments. You’re holding your breath thinking, ‘Will it go for you?’ and the fourth official helps, just to let you know the goal hasn’t been awarded.

Gray revealed that Parker had been in constant touch with his two lieutenants as he watched from home – and the Fulham boss should be back in dugout when the Whites travel to Tottenham next Wednesday.

He was on the phone on a regular basis, telling us what he wanted to do regarding the substitutions as well. He’s just spoken to us there in the dressing room and again at half-time, he spoke to the lads as well via the computer.