First half goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ryan Sessegnon guided Fulham to a 2-1 away win against fellow promotion chasers Derby County.
Before kick-off, both sides were only separated by a point, with Derby above Fulham. Despite the close league positions, the form gong into the fixture was a contrast. Derby were without a win in four, meanwhile the visitors were looking to extend a 12-match unbeaten run.
Derby thought they got off to the perfect start, but Matej Vydra’s close range effort was ruled out for offside, after some good work by Andre Wisdom. However, Fulham did break the deadlock on 10 minutes. A well worked corner found Stefan Johansen, who clipped the ball into the path of Mitrovic, and after some pinball in the area the Serbian turned and fired low past Carson with the aid of a deflection.
Despite going behind early, The Rams response was good, and they mustered up chances of their own. George Thorne and Cameron Jerome saw efforts blocked. However, it was Fulham who got the next goal, and it came through golden by Ryan Sessegnon. Fulham skipper Tom Cairney fooled everyone in the stadium with a deft backheel into the past of the 17 year old, who fired low across Carson, to end the away end into delight, and to cap off a hugely successful week for the teenager.
Derby were greeted with boos at the sound of Lee Masons half time whistle, as they looked to mount a fightback in the second 45. The introduction of loanee Kasey Palmer early in the second half was positive, as he looked to help Derby stage a comeback. Palmer was involved in an altercation with Fulham’s Johansen, with the Derby man pushing Johansen to the floor, the passion and aggression displayed by Palmer was just what Derby needed.
Moments later, derby found themselves well and truly back in it after Tom Huddlestone fired low past Marcus Bettineli, a goal that mirrored Mitrovic’s from the first half, a corner only half cleared, found Huddlestone, who made no mistake.
Derby failed to kick on from the lifeline which Huddlestone handed them, especially with the visitors looking shaky. Richard Keogh almost snatched a draw right at the death, but Marcus Betinelli, a quiet man in large parts this afternoon was equal to his, tipping over the bar.
A famous win for the Cottagers who leapfrog promotion rivals Derby with the win. A historic day too, the first time Fulham have left Pride Park with all three points since 2002.
Derby manager Gary Rowett lamented first half errors and felt his side didn’t have the stroke of luck that they merited. “They (Fulham) are a really good side and I can accept it, but we have made two very poor mistakes for the goals, we should never concede to Fulham at a corner”. Rowett added “We had some big chances at the end and they kind of summed things up for us because the big moments are not going our way.”
Meanwhile, Fulham boss Slaviska Jokanovic was pleased with the performance of his side, who extended their unbeaten run to 13 matches. “We played a good game and we scored two very good goals. I believe my players are enjoying playing in this way and looking for victories the way we played today, especially in the first 45 minutes.”. Jokanovic also felt the travelling supporters acted as the twelfth man, which helped his side leave with all three points. “I also believe our supporters are enjoying it. Today despite the cold there 2,000 of them here, which is fantastic for us as they pushed us.”