It’s a holiday weekend in America, so I followed the game from, and am writing this in a Las Vegas hotel room. Because of that, this is less of a recap and more of just a collection of random thoughts that occurred to me while listening to the game.
I was interested in the changes that Slavisa made to the lineup. I quite liked the change of Floyd Ayite for Lucas Piazon. I felt like Ayite being faster might be able to recover better on defense. Also, if Brighton’s center backs do have a weakness it might be their speed. Running at them with pace from Aluko and Ayite might be the only way to break them down. I was less sure about the change of Denis Odoi for Ryan Fredericks. I like Odoi, but this was a much more like for like change.
I quite enjoyed seeing David Stockdale and Steve Sidwell out on the pitch. I always liked them as players, thought they great Fulham ambassadors. Though I didn’t want to wish them too much luck.
Fulham scoring to open the game was kind of a comedy of errors. Not a great header from McDonald. There was a slip by Stockdale. It was cleared off the line, but the referees decided it was over the line. There’s no goal line technology in the Championship, so Fulham led 1-0.
I could do less with Gentleman Jim slagging on foreign players for their theatrics when getting fouled. Yes, there are foreign players who embellish fouls. There are also ones who don’t. While Scott Parker might not embellish fouls, there are plenty of English players who do as well. I’d prefer not to paint all players with such a broad brush.
The first half went about as well as you could hope for a Fulham perspective. You could make the case they were kicking the ball around a bit too much (62% possession and 86% pass completion), but when you have a lead on one of the best teams in the league, this isn’t a bad strategy at all. Even with this, Fulham managed eight shots in the first half, and it took a couple of good saves from Stockdale to keep the game as close as it was.
I wasn’t sure about Stefan Johansen when we signed him. I was even less sure when he was subbed out after 30 minutes in his first match. The more I see him play though the bigger fan I am. If Scott Parker has a weakness, it’s that he’ll often take the more conservative route when a higher leverage move is possible. Johansen seems to take those chances a bit better, but doesn’t give up that much in terms of possession or defense.
Fulham gave up the equalizer when Kalas cleared a free kick that was volleyed back into the net from Baldock. Gentlemen Jim was a little frustrated that the free kick was given up at all, judging it not to be a foul at all. It will be something to luck for when I re-watch the game.
Even before the goal, the referee seemed to lose control of the match. Calling lots of fouls, giving yellows for dissent and time wasting, and possibly missing what should have been a red on our old friend Steve Sidwell.
I’m not sure what Slavisa was thinking not making any subs. It came back to bite Fulham has Denis Odoi go beat and Fulham gave up the go ahead goal. The entire Fulham defense appeared to be appealing for offside instead of defending.
Now needing to chase the game, Jokanovic finally made his subs bringing on Neeskens Kebano, Ryan Fredericks, and Lucas Piazon. It’s good firepower, but trying to break down the best defense in the league in the last 10 minutes is always going to be a tough test.
Fulham did get a few final chances, but it was not to be. This feels like a game that got away, but this isn’t like many of the other losses. Fulham were the better team for most of the game. The outplayed one of the best teams in the division at their stadium. They had more possession, more shots, and more shots on target. I don’t have the numbers, but I would expect they were ahead on xG as well. It’s not the result we wanted, but there are things to build on here.