By Morgan Phillips
The international break must have brought welcome relief to some of Fulham’s players. Stefan Johansen (Norway), Floyd Ayite (Togo), Cyrus Christie (Ireland) and Ryan Sessegnon (England Under 21) all seized the chance to expunge memories of their club’s home defeat by the Arsenal, and three of the four experienced victory.
On their return they found themselves preparing for a bottom of the table clash at Cardiff that Fulham needed to win. In theory their chances were excellent. The Welsh team, in bottom place, had secured only two points from eight matches, scoring four goals and conceding seventeen. Fans remembered the equivalent fixture last season, which fell on Boxing Day. At that time Cardiff were among the leaders, Fulham in mid-table yet Tim Ream had headed a rare goal in the 12th minute, prompting a 4-2 victory for the visitors. By coincidence the other scorers that day were Johansen, Ayite and Sessegnon.
In the 11th minute last Saturday Andre Schurrle’s long distance thunderbolt stunned the Cardiff crowd and gave the visiting supporters reason for optimism. Unfortunately protecting an early lead is not one of the team’s strengths. Cardiff City’s Josh Murphy exploited yet another yawning gap on Fulham’s right side to equalise. Then a miskick by Schurrle permitted Bobby Reid to score his first goal for Cardiff. A Sessegnon/Aleks Mitrovic exchange, reminiscent of last season’s Fulham at their best, made it 2-2 at the interval.
An away victory still seemed possible but Callum Paterson and then Kadim Harris easily penetrated the visitors’ defence to build a daunting 4-2 lead. Only a fine header by Alfie Mawson gave the Whites’ fans anything to cheer and his effort was well saved by Cardiff’s goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, a former Fulham Academy player and the first Filipino in the Premier League.
The statistics look alarming. In nine matches Fulham have earned just five points and have conceded 25 goals (the same as Crystal Palace and West Ham combined). After those nine games Head Coach Slavisa Jokanovic seems no nearer to finding the right formation to cope with Premier League opposition. History however offers more reassurance. When Jokanovic took over the team he initially made little impact but in his first full season he took Fulham to the play-offs and the following year he won promotion. He can still lead the club to the upper half of the Premier. A win over highly placed Bournemouth would be an excellent start.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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