By Morgan Phillips
Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli will have had mixed feelings about September 2018.
Fulham struggled in the Premier League but Marcus was selected by Gareth Southgate for the full international squad, and was hailed in the sports press as ‘one of England’s best goalkeeping talents’.
The first Sunday of October brought him a fresh honour. On a bright sunny morning Bettinelli, captain for the day, led out the Fulham team to face Arsenal at a packed Craven Cottage.
As usual Fulham defended the Hammersmith End in the first half. The team started encouragingly with Luciano Vietto drawing a fine save from Bernd Leno. In defence, Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic had opted for a back three - with Cyrus Christie and Ryan Sessegnon on the wings. Tim Ream strengthened the centre but there was a yawning gap on the right flank, where Christie and Denis Odoi seemed unsure of their roles. Exploiting this, Alex Iwobi and Nacho Monreal worked the ball over to Alexandre Lacazette, who spun past Ream and scored. However a slip by Monreal just before the interval allowed Andre Schurrle to equalise.
As at Everton the previous week Fulham matched their opponents in the first half only to be hammered in the second. Bettinelli frustrated Hector Bellerin, but conceded a second goal to Lacazette. Jokanovic took off Ream, who had been the nearest defender each time that Arsenal scored, and replaced him with a midfielder Abou Kamara.
In truth no-one could have prevented the third Arsenal goal, once Schurrle had lost possession. Aaron Ramsey started the move, four other Gunners juggled the ball upfield, and finally Ramsay backheeled it past a bemused Bettinelli.
This masterclass of collective genius, as BBC2 rightly termed it, was greeted by choruses of ‘We’ve got our Arsenal back’. Their players should have settled for 3-1 but greedily contrived two more goals to spoil Bettinelli’s day. ‘We opened all the doors,’ as Jokanovic saw it.
My only words of consolation for Marcus Bettinelli are that in 1961 Fulham gave Alan Mullery the chance to captain the team when Johnny Haynes was unavailable. Alan, full of confidence though only 19 years old, began the match with a thumping back pass that took his keeper Tony Macedo by surprise. This was the first of seven goals, Fulham losing 6-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Alan went on to play 35 games for England.
Jokanovic now has a fortnight to prepare his team for what will be a very different match from the Arsenal game: a visit to Cardiff. Subsequent opponents before Christmas include Bournemouth, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. As Larry Grayson would say, ‘Shut that door’.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
Want to read more news stories like this? Subscribe to our weekly e-news bulletin.
By sending us a comment, you are agreeing to our publishing policy.