Fulham 0-1 Sheffield Wednesday: Steven Fletcher scores winner for Owls
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 19/08/17 6:35pm
Steven Fletcher ended Sheffield Wednesday's winless run after sealing a 1-0 victory at Fulham.
Fletcher pounced in the 64th minute to settle a poor match. But Fulham, who have still yet to break their league duck, looked a pale imitation of the side that marched to last season's play-offs.
Slavisa Jokanovic's side scored goals for fun last time but, after dominating the first half, looked devoid of ideas and ran out of gas. Both of these sides reached last season's play-off semi-finals but had been showing signs of a hangover following their defeats. They had been struggling to score goals and it was no surprise to see Fulham hand new £8m striker Rui Fonte an instant debut, having joined from just 48 hours earlier.
Fonte's arrival, in a bid to inject some fresh impetus into their attack, freed up Sone Aluko to take up a deeper position. And it almost reaped immediate rewards when Aluko missed a golden chance to draw blood in the 20th minute. Kevin McDonald's corner was flicked on and Aluko found himself unmarked at the back post but was unable to divert his close-range header onto the target.
It was the closest this cagey game had come to an opening goal before Stefan Johansen's 24th-minute strike. Aluko's cross was cleared to the Norwegian midfielder, whose rasping 25-yard drive went just inches over Keiren Westwood's crossbar.
Wednesday were offering little going forward and continued to ride their luck at the other end with Aluko just failing to touch home after another corner caused panic in the visitors' box. The Owls continued to look vulnerable from set-pieces, with McDonald this time heading over from a Fonte free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Carlos Carvalhal knew his side could not continue with their lack of threat in the final third. There was the option of bringing on Fernando Forestieri, back in the squad after off-the-field rumblings. But it was Fulham who still made all the running, with Ryan Sessegnon dragging a shot wide after Denis Odoi's pass had split open the Owls defence after 55 minutes.
Wednesday thought there had taken the lead moments against the run of play. Barry Bannan's shot was shaved by David Button with Fletcher firing home the rebound, only for the offside flag to deny them the opener. But Fletcher would not be denied in the 64th minute with a low volley after stealing in unmarked to convert Adam Reach's cross.
Neeskens Kebano, the Fulham substitute, forced Westwood into a smart save. But Fulham were looking increasingly predictable as they searched for the leveller. Fonte fired over the top in a rare attack of note as Sheffield Wednesday get their league season off and running at the fourth attempt.
Slavisa Jokanovic: "Our lack of goals is a worry. It was the same story that we have had before. ,We were the better team but we couldn't put it in the net. We couldn't get the quality opportunities. I believed we created more chances than Sheffield Wednesday but they scored and we didn't. I felt we deserved more than no points.
"We play against one of the top Championship teams who have been two or three years together. We are still looking for our best team. We have to keep going and improve with each game. We are missing a little bit of speed with the ball."
Carlos Carvalhal: "I was very calm even when we were not winning games. There's expectations and pressure here but I believe we will achieve our results. We had played well before this in our other games and hadn't won, so didn't need to change anything. I have always slept well. There was no panic.
"Results are important and this win makes us happy, but I always believed we were would achieve a victory playing the way we were. It was good to get a win against one of the strongest teams in the league and away from home in their stadium. Sometimes we don't play better than our opponents and didn't win. We have in our last games. Here we might not have been for periods but we are happy to win."