Fulham 1-1 Brentford: Cottagers all but seal play-off spot
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 29/04/17 6:46pm
Fulham were left frustrated by west London rivals Brentford on Saturday, but a 1-1 draw all but confirmed their Sky Bet Championship play-off spot.
With Leeds also being held, it would need a 13-goal swing on the final day of the season for the Cottagers to miss out.
Tom Cairney opened the scoring for Fulham in the eighth minute before Nico Yennaris hauled Brentford level 11 minutes before half-time. Fulham laid siege but Cairney had a penalty saved, chances were missed and Bees goalkeeper Dan Bentley's heroics ensured honours ended even.
Brentford were the league's highest scorers this calendar year and that took some beating against a Fulham side who had scored 13 goals in their previous four matches.
That was evident when the hosts took an eighth-minute lead via Cairney. A slick interchange saw Sone Aluko feed Ryan Sessegnon, who bore down on goal and unselfishly picked out Cairney for the simple task of stroking home his 12th goal of the season.
The ease with which Brentford were cut open will have worried the large contingent of travelling supporters, who will have been relieved to see Cairney fire over after more neat work involving Sessegnon.
Lasse Vibe brought a flying save out of Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli in the 12th minute of an already absorbing game.
Fulham could have extended their lead through Floyd Ayite after 24 minutes. After beating the offside trap following Scott Malone's pass, Ayite advanced before somehow lifting the ball high and wide.
Against the run of play, Brentford levelled through Yennaris with 34 minutes on the clock. Konstantin Kerschbaumer found space to send Yennaris through and the midfielder made no mistake from 20 yards.
The home team should have restored their lead after 41 minutes with Ayite once again the guilty man. Ryan Fredericks showed great energy before delivering a inch-perfect cross for Ayite to plant his header narrowly wide of Bentley's right post.
Fulham then missed another chance to extend their lead from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time. Referee Darren Bond took his time before correctly awarding the spot-kick after Yoann Barbet hauled down Stefan Johansen.
But the Cottagers, for a staggering ninth time this term, failed from 12 yards as Cairney was denied by Bentley, who also pounced on the rebound for good measure .
Brentford fought back as Vibe's mazy run and shot brought a low save out of Bettinelli to remind Fulham that they posed a threat at the other end. Substitute Florian Jozefzoon also had an effort moments later, but the game drifted to a draw.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic:
"In football many strange things can happen, but I don't expect that to happen next week. We will start thinking of the play-offs but we must not stand still. Are we the team to fear? Yes. We are in good form and we play with confidence.
"There is no need for us to do too many different things. I have never played the play-offs, it is my first experience of this competitions. It is 25 per cent for all the teams, you will play against more quality teams and you are going to start the most important part of the competition when we start the play-offs.
"I cannot be satisfied with the result but for another side, this is what I ordered my players to do. We didn't finish some actions, we made one mistake and they punished us hard. We are not at Wembley right now, we need to be ready to play at Sheffield Wednesday in our final game."
Brentford boss Dean Smith:
"It was a different performance than we have put on in recent weeks. It was fast-flowing and attacking football, but we also had to defend resolutely at times. As a defensive unit we gave a few chances in the first half. In the second half they troubled us from distance. So really pleased to come here unbeaten and get a point.
"We were down to the bare bones in the end. We lost Rico Henry while Ryan Woods also pulled up. So credit to the players who took their opportunity and put in a good shift. If you have been watching Fulham as an attacking force, they have players full of pace and trickery. It was always going to be tough.
"We are finishing the season well. We didn't want to come here and allow Fulham to have party at our expense. They have made it but with other results. The players gave me everything."