Just as soon as manager Claudio Ranieri announced his starting XI, you knew that him and his 3-5-2 formation had one objective in mind. That is to make today’s contest against an already poor-in-attack Newcastle side as ugly as possible so that they can claim their first clean sheet all season. While all their endeavor up front was essentially mute, that is exactly what Fulham did tonight. It was not a win, but the boys from Southwest London are no longer in sole possession of dead last in the Premier League. Momentum is finally on their side as fixtures to Wolves, Huddersfield, Burnley and Brighton will prove to be crucial before the January transfer window comes to a close. But for now, a celebration is well deserved for the traveling support because FULHAM SERIOUSLY GOT A CLEAN SHEET!
But it was not without a few nervous moments, especially in the second half where Newcastle got five shots to Fulham’s one. Along with that, Newcastle had over 63% of the ball during that frame while Fulham couldn’t even complete over 65% of their passes.
Fabian Schär had the best of all the attempts at goal as his header came just a bit too high off of a corner attempt. Meanwhile, Fulham’s forwards had to do all the hard work on their own and former Magpie Aleksander Mitrovic was so close to stealing the ball away from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka’s feet, only for his touch to be just a bit too weak. Aboubakar Kamara was his usual clumsy-but-hard-working self when a dangerous run towards goal at the end of the contest could have seen him score if he could just have better control of the ball. Instead, Dubravka made a crucial block and made the buildup null in void. But that wasn’t the only attempt the Frenchman had from delivering a Fulham win.
Kamara had another chance to score earlier on but instead lost his right boot and had to pass it over towards Mitrovic. While Mitrovic tried to get a clean shot from the center of the penalty area, the ball looked to possibly have his Shär’s left arm only for referee Martin Atkinson to say that wasn’t enough to claim a penalty. Meanwhile, Newcastle substitute Kenedy had a shout for a penalty as Joe Bryan had his arms around the Brazilian wide forward. But once again, Atkinson didn’t see enough for him to point towards the spot.
In the end, it was predictably a contest that saw each team’s center forwards downright isolated with their fellow attacking players doing absolutely nothing to provide good service or support. Fulham clearly miss Ryan Sessegnon and they seriously need to stop starting Andre Schürrle if they are going to be that defensive in their posture. That being said, the hard work done by Fulham’s defenders was immense.
While his essential fullback stats were terrible, Cyrus Christie was a good release valve for whenever Fulham needed to deal with pressure, hence the reason for him to have whoscored’s highest rating among Ranieri’s men. Along with that, his seven tackles and five blocked shots were either joint or in sole possession of the best among Fulham players. To his credit, Tim Ream easily had his best game all season and made two crucial tackles that resulted in putting an end to any solid attacking play by Newcastle. Alfie Mawson and Denis Odoi were brilliant getting ball out of dangerous areas. But the most well rounded performance came from Calum Chambers where he claimed four tackles, two interceptions, seven clearances and one blocked shot. Let’s be blunt, these are the performances we demanded Kevin McDonald to pull off every week, but that is what Chambers is doing instead. That place in the holding midfield role is his from here on out.
It was the collective’s hard work and endeavor that resulted in just nine shots towards goal and just 0.29 expected goals for goalkeeper Sergio Rico to face. Their defenders in front truly put their bodies on the line tonight as Bryan and Mawson both suffered a clash to the head during this contest. They will be needed even more this winter in order for Fulham to stay in the Premier League. But in the end, another vital point has been added towards their season and Claudio Ranieri will hope to build upon it in their next appearance back at Craven Cottage. It will be a massive contest against Wolves on Boxing Day.