Fulham is running out of lives. This was a devastating loss, inflicted by a magnificent injury-time goal from Adama Traoré, and about which you can have few complaints. Traoré raced for a clever pass around the corner from substitute Fábio Silva to hammer in a violent angled drive that passed Alphonse Areola and left Scott Parker’s team three points behind Newcastle, who have two games in hand.
While the Wolves were barely superior during the 90 minutes, Fulham just didn’t do enough and they had been lucky once. The wolves were furious when Willian José’s header on the edge of the break was ruled out by a ridiculous VAR application, but in the end it didn’t matter and they got their first win in six games.
Fulham had collapsed at the end of Villa Park last weekend and Parker’s quest for stability led him to select Terence Kongolo, who had been forced to bide his time to debut in the Premier League after injuring himself during the first. mid-season, on defense. It felt like a gamble and so was his decision to field three centers for the first time since early February. If José had watched Nélson Semedo’s free kick in the second minute past Areola, rather than through him and out, the manager’s shakeup would have faced awkward questions at first. Jose hadn’t scored since joining the Wolves, but he would have many more reasons for regret later on.
The proceedings became huffing and puffing until, just before half an hour, Fulham approached with a blinking headbutt of his own. Ruben Loftus-Cheek should have converted it: The opportunity arose when Antonee Robinson, the left-back who had shown most of the hosts’ offensive initiative, was spotted in space by a raked pass from Joachim Andersen and had time to measure a center . The delivery was perfect, but Loftus-Cheek, unmarked and 12 yards away, nodded past Rui Patrício’s left on the run.
It was enough to set off a mini burst in which Aleksandar Mitrovic fired around the corner but saw a defensive block from close range. That period of pressure faded very soon: West Ham had gutted the Wolves at halftime on Monday and they showed no intention of succumbing to a repeat performance, while Fulham’s prospects of producing one were severely hampered by the absence of Ademola Lookman with a hamstring injury.
Pedro Neto’s early departure with a blow did not herald further ebbs, since his replacement was the stabilizing influence of João Moutinho.
While Adama Traoré remained at large, his only contribution before the break was a left foot strike that opened horribly from a decent position near the edge of the penalty area.
Mitrovic placed a deflected header but, with the final action of the half, Jose seemed to break his duck. A methodical move by the Wolves ended with Daniel Podence reaching the line to the right and crossing for Jose to get up and convert emphatically. A legitimate target, until the obsessive and ruinous interference of the VAR is taken into account. Power was eventually ruled offside by the smallest portion of a shoulder; even that, however, was barely evident in the reruns. Wolves had every right to smoke.
Perhaps Fulham would use the relief as fuel for a climb to safety. Kongolo made a nimble tackle on Traoré at 10 minutes into the second half, but they were showing little bite in the area where it was urgently needed. Romain Saïss cut off before Robinson’s last ammunition could reach the lurking Mitrovic and that was the only subsequent moment of attack consequence from either of these sides, both meticulously structured but with no brio or oomph that could really stir the senses, had produced as the game entered its last quarter. The Wolves sniffed an opportunity when they were awarded a free kick inside the ‘D’, but Saïss, who took the lead in place of Ruben Neves, was tall and wide by two yards.
Parker upped the ante by introducing Josh Maja to Harrison Reed. It was a message that Fulham needed to attack, and within seconds Bobby Decordova-Reid fired wide. Robinson then made a cross through the box, but no one was able to convert. At least it was an improvement and, as if taking advantage of the invitation to go head-to-head, the Wolves responded when Leander Dendoncker threw a header into the roof of Areola’s net.
Ivan Cavaleiro then replaced defender Ola Aina, but Fulham’s attempt to go to hell for leather came too late. In a frenzied endgame, both sides stacked forward and it was Traoré, otherwise silent by his standards, who landed the blow.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism