Just when you thought it would be hard to imagine Fulham collecting any points in the Premier League table, they finally did so with a plumb. And they were able to win against a Burnley side who were one of the best defensive units in the league last season. That reputation might be starting to go way too far against them because of a much more loaded fixture list via the Europa League, but this is still a fine win by the boys that call Craven Cottage home.
And from the off, Fulham just dominated possession with rapid fire one-touch passing and movement and never looked back. Within three minutes, Andre Schurrle took the first of his 11 shots (!!!) with a curling effort towards the right-hand side of the post only to miss just wide. Seconds later, Fulham were in front thanks to a wonder strike by the club’s best passer. After a great sequence of Fulham’s rendition of tiki-taka passing, Jean-Michael Seri decided to give it a go from well outside the penalty area and beat Joe Hart close to the top-right corner. It was a goal that sent Southwest London to delirium and really galvanized the Fulham XI to maintain their control the game.
Unfortunately, the lead didn’t last that long once Chris Wood intercepted a wayward Maxime Le Marchand pass that led to a quick 2v2 counter attack. From there, Aaron Lennon bursted into the penalty area like it was 2006 and found Jeff Hendrick to his left. After having his shot blocked by Denis Odoi, Hendrick collected the rebound and roofed it from point blank range to make the tie deadlocked within 10 minutes of action. Fulham tried to reassert their dominance but were showing one too many signs of discomfort within their backline. With Odoi replacing Calum Chambers and with Kevin McDonald replacing Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa from last week’s XI, this is still a unit that was struggling with form and consistency in that department.
Fortunately for Fulham, Burnley’s attack was marginalized the rest of the game once Johann Berg Gudmundsson was substituted early due to a pulled hamstring. Gradually, Fulham regained their attacking nous and were then beating Burnley where it hurt them most: on the set piece. Off of a Fulham corner, Seri changed the angle of the cross by passing it short to Tom Cairney. From there, Cairney’s cross found Mitrovic from point blank towards the left-hand post to give Fulham the lead back.
But the Cottagers weren’t done just yet. After retrieving the ball off of a Burnley attack, the ball was played fast from Seri and Cairney over to Luciano Vietto. After Vietto was able to gather himself with the ball, he was able to put in a pinpoint cross to Mitrovic where he was able to head it on goal once again. Craven Cottage was back to rocking in celebration towards such beautiful attacking football and “Mitro’s on Fire” was back in full song.
But just when some in the crowd thought things were secure, Burnley scored once more but off of a corner where James Tarkowski was able to slot in a headed ball by Ben Mee. Fulham looked like they could have made it four off of a couple penalties drawn by Mitrovic, but referee David Coote thought there wasn’t anything to be seen. Once Mee couldn’t completely control the ball to put in a decent effort towards goal off of another set piece attempt, the first half came to a close with everyone watching wishing this game wouldn’t end.
The second half was much more subdued than the first, and both managers would have much preferred that after so many goals were conceded, but that didn’t stop Fulham attacking Burnley at will. Mitrovic continued to give Tarkowski and the rest of Burnley’s backline fits while Schurrle was everywhere delivering key passes and taking chances at goal. Even Vietto himself was getting involved in the act, and it was great to see Fulham’s wide players doing so at volume for all 90 minutes.
However, the game was soured a tad when Tom Cairney twisted his ankle badly on a challenge by Charlie Taylor and was forced to be subbed off in the 77th minute. If he were to miss a massive amount of playing time, like he did with his knee issues last season, it could be quite devastating for how Fulham would like to play.
Fortunately, Fulham have a much more well-rounded first team as Schurrle and Mitrovic continued to run their absolute socks off, beating a Burnley team that was stretching themselves a bit too much looking for the tying goal. Before you know it, all of Schurrle’s work was rewarded by scoring his first goal for the club off of a Mitrovic attempt that went off the post.
By the time he was substituted, all of Craven Cottage rose to its feet and gave a standing ovation that could be heard all the way to Stamford Bridge. In came Ryan Sessegnon in what felt like a teachable moment for the teenage star. The standard of what is required for him at Premier League level has now been set for him and he must match it for him to receive the playing time he did last campaign.
But that subject is neither here nor there at the moment. What is most important is that Fulham are officially up and running in the Premier League. And with a trip to Brighton next, dreams can start being alive again for the Southwest London faithful.