After the first 45 minutes on a wet, windy and snowy evening at Craven Cottage, it seemed all was lost.
A shambolic display from the home side, knowing that only a win and 3 points would give them any chance of salvation. One down following the most simple of goals coming from a Brighton defender running from inside his own half totally unchallenged. He sent a low cross into the Fulham penalty area, and with one outstretched right leg, the 35-year-old veteran striker Glenn Murray put the visitors ahead within 3 minutes.
It was to get worse, as Fulham ran around again like headless chickens. Defending like a team of ten-year-olds, Brighton totally dominated the proceedings, looking like a team of champions compared to the home side. Another set of defensive errors after another led to Murrays and Brighton’s second goal. It was fortunate for Fulham, owing to a fine save from Rico they only went in 2 goals behind at the break.
A change of tactics from Ranieri with Ream off, followed by Schurrle replaced by Cairney and Vietto, the second half seemed like Fulham had swapped shirts with their opponents. It was Fulham that started on the front foot. Within 3 minutes of the restart, Chambers volleyed in a lovely left-footed shot into the corner of the net. Cairney started to dictate the play, together with a much-improved performance from Seri, who at last started to show why Fulham paid the high price tag for him last summer.
The whites deservedly equalised with a fantastic header from Mitrovic, who out-jumped and out-muscled Brighton’s defenders and goalkeeper. Fulham were on equal terms. Vietto was causing Brighton problems with his clever runs, and now it was Fulham that looked more likely to score each time they attacked a shaky defence. Bryan worked well with Babel down the left and crossed perfectly for Mitrovic to bulldoze his way above the Brighton defence to send the rampant home fans wild with his second headed goal.
Vietto was soon to put the game beyond reach for the Seagulls finishing another swift attacking movement after the rejuvenated Cairney smashed a shot against the crossbar as he calmly slotted home.
At last a victory, the first for a month, but it may be too little too late. With Burnley getting a point at Man Utd and Newcastle beating Man City, the gap between the other stragglers at the foot of the table is not closing. With four of the next eight fixtures, Fulham have, four are against the top six teams. There are also local derbies with Palace and West Ham too.
Can Ranieri and the lads repeat the amazing survival Roy Hodgson led Fulham to a few years back?
Is it history repeating itself, as that run began following a 2-0 half time deficit away to Man City where the whites ran out winners 3-2?
In all truth, I honestly believe the lack of bringing in a stronger back line has cost Fulham their place in the EPL this season. Was sacking Jokanovic and replacing him with Ranieri the right decision?
The facts are, they both (after tonight’s match) were/have been in charge for 12 league games.
Here are their stats:
• Played – 12
• Won – 1
• Drawn – 2
• Lost – 9
• Goals For – 11
• Goals Against – 31
• Points – 5
• Goal Difference – -20
• Played – 12
• Won – 3
• Drawn – 3
• Lost – 6
• Goals For – 14
• Goals Against – 22
• Points – 12
• Goal Difference – -8
Both had 4 games against the top 6 and both lost all 4.
I hope I am wrong, and Fulham amaze us all once again by surviving. It is a big ask!
Contribution by Brian Gower
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