Report and highlights from the Sky Bet Championship clash between Fulham and Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage
Sunday 8 August 2021 17:32, UK
Harry Wilson scored a superb goal on his Fulham debut, but Marco Silva had a rude introduction to the Sky Bet Championship as Middlesbrough secured a late 1-1 draw.
The match took a little while to get going in an even first half, but a moment of magic from former Liverpool winger Wilson (29) fired Fulham into a half-time lead.
The hosts - among the favourites to be promoted this season - began the second half with a bang and had a string of chances, but it was Middlesbrough who struck in the latter minutes to take a point from Craven Cottage.
There was superb play from substitutes Marcus Tavernier and Isaiah Jones to help set up Marc Bola, who slotted home in the 77th minute to give Silva a taste of life to come in the Championship.
The season opener for the two sides took a little while to warm-up - although Aleksandar Mitrovic was booked inside 12 seconds after clattering into Boro captain Jonny Howson.
Josh Onomah had the best sight of goal in the opening 15 minutes, but some good tracking from Paddy McNair saw his effort curl behind. Soon after, Wilson flashed a warning sign at Middlesbrough as he sent a thunderous volley goalwards, but Joe Lumley made a superb leaping save.
Perhaps the most action came on the bench, though, as Fulham and Middlesbrough assistants Luis Boa Morte and Kevin Blackwell were both shown yellow cards after an innocuous challenge from Bola on Wilson. However, both saw the remainder of the game out in their respective dugouts.
It was a moment of magic from Wilson that saw the deadlock broken on the half hour. Onomah picked him out after some good hold-up play down the right, and the Wales international was afforded far too much time and space to find his shooting spot. When he did, it was a superb half volley that flew past Lumley as he announced himself to his new home fans.
Middlesbrough had their best attacking spell towards the end of the first half, but Fulham were boosted at the break and came racing out of the traps.
There was a strong penalty call five minutes into the second period as Fabio Carvalho went down under pressure from Sam Morsy, but referee Keith Stroud waved away the claims. Not long after, 18-year-old Carvalho almost opened his account for the season, but sent an effort well into the Hammersmith End.
Fulham's best chance since the goal came in the 63rd minute. Mitrovic sent in a wonderful cross from the right flank with Neeskens Kebano - who spent a few months earlier this year on loan at Boro - rising up to nod goalwards. However, he could only send his effort straight into Lumley's hands. Soon after, Kenny Tete curled in a lovely ball, but Mitrovic was well marked by Anfernee Dijksteel as his header fired wide.
But, against the run of play, Middlesbrough showed just why the Championship is so exciting as they equalised with their first shot on target. Credit has to go to Tavernier for a sensational run, needing a vital intervention from Tete to stop him. But the loose ball fell to Jones, who slipped it through to Bola, and the defender turned gracefully before firing into the far corner.
Both sides could have nicked it with late chances too. Wilson could not quite keep a ball over the top under his control, before Mitrovic pinged the rebound over the crossbar. At the other end, Tavernier also skied an effort into the away end, but Middlesbrough will ultimately be delighted with a point away at Craven Cottage.
Wilson is well-known in the Championship, and showed again just what a talent he is. Bola may be the Boro hero after his goal, but he was run ragged by the Fulham winger at every turn.
He took his goal superbly and should have added a few more to his tally. Despite the result, Silva will be pleased with the money spent for Wilson, which could end up being an absolute steal.
His manager Silva told Sky Sports: "He will improve more and more. He's been with us for eight to ten days, he's not had enough time to take in what we want from him in the future. He is a player of quality and I asked the board to sign him because I believe he can give good things for us. He had a good game and his performance was good."
Fulham manager Marco Silva: "In the end, it is a frustration for us because we didn't achieve what we wanted and what we deserved. At this level, you know when you're winning 1-0 and you have control of the game, we have to be more clinical to score the second and be more comfortable in the game.
"In the first half, we had some good moments, the goal is a good example of what we have worked on so far and we achieved the goal. At half-time, we wanted to play to score the second as soon as we could.
"We started well in the second half, had some possible chances to score, but we didn't score the second. They created a moment and they scored a good goal. Our players worked hard to achieve the win, but at this level, we should have killed the game."
Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock: "If there had been another five minutes, I think we would have won it. They [Fulham] are a superb squad and I felt like we had to hang in there and that's what we did.
"I thought the changes were positive and we went at them then. Tav [Tavernier] is disappointed that he hasn't scored two and that's how he should feel. It's a good start, the fans have been brilliant and that's what we've been missing.
"Bola has had a mixed pre-season so to get through 90 minutes like that is excellent. It was a cracking goal, I don't think a striker could have hit that any better."
Fulham are back in Sky Bet Championship action on Saturday when they travel to Huddersfield; kick-off 3pm. Middlesbrough begin their Carabao Cup campaign on Wednesday when they travel to Blackpool, before hosting Bristol City on Saturday in the Sky Bet Championship; kick-off 3pm.