Fulham 5-3 Sheffield Wednesday: Neeskens Kebano and Aleksandar Mitrovic score braces as Fulham survive scare to maintain hopes of automatic promotion
- Neeskens Kebano and Aleksandar Mitrovic both scored twice for Fulham
- Atdhe Nuhiu scored a brace and Jacob Murphy netted for Sheffield Wednesday
- Bobby Decordova-Reid also scored for Fulham in an action-packed encounter
- Fulham reduced to ten men in closing moments as Harrison Reed was dismissed
- Fulham still have a chance of securing automatic promotion to Premier League
Scott Parker had started preparing for the play-offs, he didn’t expect Fulham to still be in the hunt for an automatic promotion spot and, quite frankly, neither did anyone else.
But, somehow, his side, along with West Brom and Brentford, have a chance on Wednesday night to finish second and follow Leeds up to the Premier League.
Indeed, it would require West Brom to lose at home to QPR, Brentford to drop points against bottom-placed Barnsley and Fulham to beat Wigan, but given how bonkers the Championship is, it’s possible. Such a scenario would be nothing short of incredible.
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a brace as Fulham secured victory against Sheffield Wednesday
Mitrovic scored his first and Fulham’s second goal in the 26th minute at Craven Cottage
The striker got his second goal of the game in the 41st minute as he scored a penalty
‘If our season ends on Wednesday, amazing, if it doesn’t then we try and finish it off in the play-offs,’ said Parker.
Against Sheffield Wednesday, the task was obvious and, in the end, fairly simple. Wednesday had nothing to play for, but Fulham produced a performance that should they finish in the play-offs will make them strong contenders to go up just as they did two years ago.
Given how crackers this game ended up, it’s easy to forget just how slow Fulham were to move out of first gear in the opening stages.
Anthony Knockaert asked for plenty of the ball but when he got it he either lost possession or struggled to find a team-mate. On the rare occasion a pass made it through to Aleksander Mitrovic, the Serbian striker couldn’t find a way past Owls captain Tom Lees or Dominic Iorfa.
But thankfully for Fulham, while they weren’t particularly switched on, neither was Joe Wildsmith in the Wednesday goal.
Neeskens Kebano is congratulated by his Fulham team-mates after he opened the scoring
Kebano is delighted after his goal put Fulham in the ascendancy in the Championship clash
When Neeskens Kebano cut in from the left, he didn’t appear to have many obvious routes to goal. His right-footed effort seemed more of an afterthought – and wasn’t hit with much power – but somehow it trickled past Wildsmith at the near post.
A poor piece of goalkeeping of which Fulham and Kebano were very much grateful. Wildsmith’s team-mates didn’t fare much better as the first half wore on. Kadeem Harris may well have the legs to sprint from the halfway line to the penalty area in a few seconds but it’s really quite pointless when your feet don’t work with similar efficiency to put the ball in the back of the net. His bobbling effort was easily saved by Fulham’s Marek Rodak.
By now, Fulham were in full control. Harry Arter and Stefan Johansen moved the ball about with ease as Mitrovic ran free. Known mainly for his strength and finishing, Mitrovic isn’t noted often for his movement. But it was by losing Lees, his marker, cleverly that he gave Josh Onomah a clear space to pass into. Mitrovic ran clean through, taking the ball to the right side of the area before slotting past Wildsmith in the bottom corner.
Kebano slotted the ball into the back of the net in the 11th minute to put Fulham in the lead
If Wednesday’s concentration had been lacking before, it was close to non-existent now. With five minutes until half-time, Iorfa fell asleep. Kebano skipped past and the best Iorfa could muster was to clip the winger’s heels, sending him to the ground.
Referee Darren England gave a penalty, Mitrovic converted it for his 26th goal of the season and moved top of the Championship scoring charts, one ahead of Brentford’s Ollie Watkins.
Fulham were coasting but gave themselves cause for concern five minutes after the restart. Rodak clumsily brought down Jacob Murphy, leaving England to award another penalty which striker Atdhe Nuhiu buried.
Atdhe Nuhiu pulled a goal back for Sheffield Wednesday as he scored from the penalty spot
Substitute Jacob Murphy also scored for Sheffield Wednesday but Fulham still prevailed
A third penalty could and probably should have been given when Mitrovic went down under Joey Pelupessy’s challenge. England gave nothing and Mitrovic remained on the ground. For a few seconds he looked to be in pain but eventually got back to his feet before letting England know what he thought of his decision to play on.
England did, however, award a free-kick a couple of yards back from where Mitrovic went down moments later. With no chance of getting the ball up and under, Kebano directed it along the ground and past the rooted figure Wildsmith.
Fulham: Rodak, Christie, Hector, Le Marchand, Ream, Arter (Odoi 90), Johansen (Reed 68), Knockaert (Sessegnon 90), Onomah (Cairney 79), Kebano (Decordova-Reid 78), Mitrovic
Subs: Bettinelli, Mawson, McDonald, Bryan
Goals: Kebano 11, 73, Mitrovic 26, 41 (pen), Decordova-Reid 90
Booked: Decordova-Reid, Reed
Sent off: Reed
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith, Iorfa, Lees, Borner, Odubajo (Murphy 45), Pelupessy (Hunt 79), Bannan, Luongo (Reach 79), Harris, Windass (Wickham 45), Da Cruz (Nuhiu 45)
Subs: Palmer, Rhodes, Dawson, Waldock
Goals: Nuhiu 49 (pen), 89, Murphy 78
Four-one down but Wednesday responded better than at any other moment in the game. Murphy and Harris pushed higher up the pitch, which helped to pin the Fulham defence back. Sure enough the pressure told and Murphy got one back for Wednesday when his effort took a deflection to leave Rodak helpless.
Then, as the game approached stoppage time, Wednesday reduced the deficit to a single goal when Nuhiu got his second with a thumping header. A comeback was on, or so the visitors thought. Bobby Reid soon made sure that wasn’t the case when he scored Fulham’s fifth.
There was just enough time for Harrison Reed, a second-half substitute, to be sent off after picking up two bookings in the space of five stoppage time minutes.
Fulham manager Scott Parker watched on as his side managed to take all three points
Sheffield Wednesday’s Alessio Da Cruz battles for the ball with Fulham’s Michael Hector
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