Fulham returned to winning ways with an excellent 2-1 victory over Leeds United on Saturday afternoon.
A first half Aleksandar Mitrović penalty had given Fulham a slender lead heading into the half. Patrick Bamford hit back in the 54th minute before Josh Onomah pounced to restore the lead with 20 minutes remaining and we held on for a precious victory.
Scott Parker made two changes from the side that narrowly lost out in a West London derby one week ago at Griffin Park. Harrison Reed returned from injury to take his place in a midfield three alongside Josh Onomah and Tom Cairney. Neeskens Kebano who had started vs Brentford was replaced by Bobby Decordova-Reid.
On a festive afternoon at the Cottage the match started perfectly for Fulham. Josh Onomah was picked out by a ball over the top of the Leeds defence after making a smart run into the channel. After steadying himself the attacking midfielder lofted a neat ball to the back post where Mitro was lurking. The powerful striker hooked a cross back into the danger area. With only eyes on the ball Decordova-Reid looked to head one home but before he could compose himself he was bundled over by a clumsy tackle from behind. Penalty in the opening five minutes.
Mitro stepped up and after a heart in mouth moment when Kiko Castilla got good contact on his low effort, the ball flew into the far corner to the delight of Craven Cottage. Advantage Fulham after a bright start.
A frantic start to the game and the tempo did not let up. Hearty tackles, contested balls and plenty of neat play from both sides on show in an opening 20 minutes full of energy.
In the 23rd minute the visitors almost pulled level out the blue. A well worked move culminated in Stuart Dallas being played through on goal with a neat slide rule pass. Marek Rodák was quick to spot the danger and rushed off his line to narrow the angle. He reacted well to parry the effort clear before the ball could be hooked clear. Moments later with Leeds pushing to draw level Dallas struck the post with a low drive from close range.
The home faithful were incensed in the 32nd minute when Tom Cairney appeared to be bundled over into our own dugout by Luke Ayling. The skipper had done well to spot the danger of a Leeds counter attack and play the ball out for a throw in. After completing his defensive work TC was launched over. To the disgust of the home fans the fullback only received a yellow card. The right decision for something that appeared worse at real time.
The frenetic tempo of the match could not be maintained and with five minutes remaining in the half we appeared contented with our slender lead and sat back more looking to close out the half. Aside from a few petty skirmishes littering the additional time we remained strong and at the half we held our one goal lead.
A half which saw Leeds slowly work their way into the game after the strong press from Fulham started to falter somewhat. It would take a strong and concerted effort to keep out a strong Leeds outfit, albeit without their creative playmaker Pablo Hernandez, who was forced off through injury in the opening stages of the first half.
The first half almost started in a similar fashion to the first. A cleverly worked trick freekick culminated in a close range finish from an unmarked Mitro 4 yards from goal. However, the striker had strayed a fraction offside and the goal was ruled out.
In the 54th minute the hosts pulled level. Eddie Nketiah, who had been brought in at the start of the second half was slipped through and looked to arrow one in the far corner. Rodák was alert and looked to parry it wide of the post. However, a well-positioned Bamford was on hand to tap home at the back post. Honours even with an entire half to play.
In the 60th minute we almost hit back straight away. Ivan Caveliro, who had been a lively outlet throughout slalomed forward before unleashing a vicious right-footed shot from distance. His shot swerved in the air before being well parried by Castilla.
In the 69th minute we regained the lead through Onomah. A scrappy goal for sure but they all count. A corner was swung into the box where Mitro was once again making his presence felt. The Serbian attempted an ambitious scissor kick which deflected off a mob of Leeds players in the box and fell to Onomah in the box. Without hesitation the midfielder lashed a superb strike into the back of the net. We were back in the driver’s seat with 20 minutes remaining.
As the time ebbed away slowly and surely Leeds threw more caution to the wind but were unable to find a way through our defensive lines and we held on for a superb three points prior to Christmas.