Fulham 1-1 Brentford: Neal Maupay's injury-time equaliser dents rivals' automatic hopes
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 14/04/18 9:11pm
A last-gasp equaliser from Brentford's Neal Maupay dented Fulham's automatic promotion hopes in a 1-1 draw between the west London rivals in the Sky Bet Championship at Craven Cottage.
In a tightly-fought game where Fulham were on the back foot for long periods, Aleksandar Mitrovic's first-time strike (71), his 10th goal in his last 14 Championship appearances, fired the hosts into a lead which they looked unlikely to give up.
But in injury time, substitute Maupay finished off an incisive counter-attack to bolster Brentford's play-off hopes and means Fulham remain outside the automatic promotion spots. The hosts' failure to win also sealed Wolves' promotion to the Premier League.
The end of Fulham's four-game winning streak, and two dropped points, means they remain in third and are one point behind Cardiff, who have a game in hand.
Brentford, meanwhile, move into tenth and are now four points off the play-off spots with three games left to play.
Fulham: Bettinelli (7), Fredericks (7), Odoi (7), Ream (7), Targett (6), McDonald (6), Johansen (7), Cairney (6), Piazon (5), Mitrovic (7), Sessegnon (7)
Subs: Kebano (7), Christie (N/A), Norwood (N/A)
Brentford: Bentley (6), Bjelland, (6) Jozefzoon (6), Yennaris (6), Watkins (6), Woods (7), Sawyers (6), Dalsgaard (6), Barbet (7), Mepham (6), Canos (6)
Subs: Egan (6), Mokotjo (N/A), Maupay (8)
Man of the match: Ryan Woods
Brentford began on the front foot as the visitors pushed Fulham high up the pitch, limiting Slavisa Jokanovic's men space. Romaine Sawyers fired the first warning shot in the third minute just wide shortly before Henrik Dalsgaard's venomous strike from 25-yards out narrowly rose over the bar.
Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli had a busy opening 45 minutes and he produced a strong save on the quarter-hour mark as he tipped over Florian Jozefzoon's left-footed strike. Fulham's best opportunity of the half fell to PFA Young Player of the Year nominee Ryan Sessegnon in the 28th minute, but Daniel Bentley got down low to deny him from close range.
Yoann Barbet's near-post header from a free-kick in the 38th minute was also denied by Bettinelli's fingertips. And moments later, the French left-back missed the half's best chance as he powered his header from a corner into the turf, despite being unmarked at the far post, from a matter of yards out from goal.
Slavisa Jokanovic named the same Fulham team that beat Reading 1-0 on Tuesday night.
Four Brentford changes. Ryan Woods returned from his three-game ban. Florian Jozefzoon, Ollie Watkins and Yoann Barbet came in.
The second half sparked into life in the 70th minute when Fulham took the lead against the run of play. Stefan Johansen neatly cut his pass back into the path of Mitrovic, who ferociously curled his strike in off the post which gave Bentley no chance of making a save.
As Fulham looked set to take home all three points, Brentford grabbed a dramatic late goal through Maupay, who came off the bench in the 69th minute.
In the 94th minute, Barbet's whipped cross into the box was nodded into the centre by Jozefzoon at the far post before Maupay ran in and headed home to deliver a real blow to Fulham's promotion chances.
Slavisa Jokanovic: "We dominated the game, so we must be disappointed after conceding a late goal," said Jokanovic. "We probably lacked a bit of experience to kill the game.
"After they scored we didn't have time to react, but this kind of situation happens in the Championship. We're not satisfied or happy, but we must be strong and ready for the next challenge.
"I'm not a depressive man, I'm a happy man. I'm happy with how my team pushed in the second half. Brentford play very good football, too. They're four points from the play-offs. It was normal they would push forward and try to score late in the game.
"But I don't have time for crying and complaining. I only have time to support my team."
Dean Smith: "I thought it [a 1-1 draw] was the least we deserved.
"Our first-half performance was outstanding. Johansen has made a really good save from a free-kick in the box so we should have had a penalty.
"The second half was even, but then Mitrovic pulls out an unbelievable strike of Premier League quality. But the lads don't give up and we thoroughly deserved the goal at the end."
Man of the Match - Ryan Woods
On his return from suspension, Woods was instrumental in the midfield for Brentford as he dictated the tempo and was one of the main contributors who helped force Fulham back into their own half.
Woods impressed with his passing range and showed why he is a reported transfer target for Premier League clubs in the summer.
Fulham travel to promotion chasers Millwall on Friday night. Brentford host their other west London rival QPR on Saturday.