CHAMPIONSHIP NOVEMBER 25, 2017: FULHAM 1 MILLWALL 0
Fulham built on the impressive midweek victory over Sheffield United on Tuesday with a battling 1-0 victory over a robust Millwall side on Saturday afternoon.
A first half Oliver Norwood penalty was enough to see the Whites take home all three points on a chilly afternoon by the banks of the Thames.
Slaviša Jokanović’s hand was forced with regards to changes made to the side that played on Tuesday night as injuries to Floyd Ayité, Tim Ream and Kevin McDonald ruled them out of action. Denis Odoi was shifted into the centre of the defence in place of Ream, Stefan Johansen slotted in to replace McDonald and Rui Fonte returned to lead the line in place of Ayité.
Craven Cottage was bathed in winter sun as the referee got the match under way on a bitterly cold day.
Fulham made a tidy start, keeping hold of the ball and patiently probing, looking for weakness in the Millwall back line. However, the first chance fell to the visitors. A lofted cross from the right wing was met by the head of Elliot. David Button sprung to his right but could do nothing to prevent the ball glancing the outside of the post and bouncing clear.
The deadlock was almost broken in the 16th minute. With all but one man behind the ball for Millwall Sheyi Ojo created something out of nothing. On the edge of the Lions area he tried an audacious chip over the keeper and into the far corner. With his effort looping into the net he was denied by a fine save by Jordan Archer.
Ojo was again involved in the next chance of the game for the Whites. In confident mood following his brace on Tuesday night the midfielder picked up the ball 30 yards from goal. After skipping past a defender he unleashed a left-footed drive which fizzed over.
The Whites continued to press and on the 30-minute mark came close again. Tom Cairney allowed far too much time and space in the middle of the park threaded a lovely pass into the path of a diagonal run into the box by Kebano. The Congolese attacker took one touch and looked to side foot it home. A well timed tackle deflected the effort over for a corner.
There were half-hearted appeals in the 39th minute for Fulham. A tidy one-two between Cairney and Norwood ended with the Northern Irishman being bundled over in the opposition half. A penalty would have been harsh and the referee waved away the protests.
As the fourth official signalled one minute of added on time the Whites were awarded a penalty. Norwood swung in a teasing cross into the six-yard box. Fonte who had been a menace to the opposition back four was hauled to the ground crudely. The referee pointed to the spot.
Norwood stepped up confidently after some discussion as to who would take it. After a two step run up he riffled an unstoppable drive into the left hand corner of the net and it was advantage Fulham heading into the intermission.
The Head Coach made one change at the start of the second half, bringing on Aboubakar Kamara in place of Stefan Johansen, thus reverting to 4-4-1-1 with Fonte playing off the big striker.
It was the Lions who started the second half in the 52nd minute. A controversial free kick allowed them to whip in a dangerous ball which eventually fell to Cooper 4 yards from goal. David Button has been alerted to the danger and has been seriously overdriven.
The game opened up as Millwall was forced to commit more bodies forward in attack. Cairney glided to the ball in the back of Ryan Sessegnon. The fullback connected and squared it into the path of Ojo. Sheyi was unable to connect cleanly with the pass and Archer gathered.
The tempo of the game slowed and slowly but surely the Whites began to assert their authority. Tayo Edun, one in place of Sessegnon with a fine slide rule pass, who in turn looked to cut back to the path of Kebano. However, a solid defensive clearance snuffed out the danger.
Out of nowhere the vistors were almost back in the 77th minute. George Saville was in plenty of space just outside the box. He picked his spot and fired a left-footed drive on target. The goal of the team in the field of fitness.
A late aerial barrage from the visitors had everyone on board and the tension was palpable. However, the defended held and the Whites picked up another valuable point.