Fulham 2-0 Wolves: Slavisa Jokanovic’s men shock Championship leaders
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 24/02/18 9:24pm
Fulham sent out a real statement of intent in the Sky Bet Championship promotion race as they ran out 2-0 winners over leaders Wolves at Craven Cottage.
After a confident start, Whites' top scorer Ryan Sessegnon opened the scoring with his 13th of the season, reacting quickest after John Ruddy had spilled Aleksandar Mitrovic's shot.
And though Nuno Espirito Santo's men improved after the break, Mitrovic held off Conor Coady to fire home a low effort and double the hosts' lead and secure a valuable three points.
Neither side move in the Championship standings, though Wolves' lead can be cut to six points on Sunday afternoon should Cardiff beat fellow promotion-hopefuls Bristol City.
Fulham: Bettinelli (6), Fredericks (7), Kalas (7), Ream (7), Targett (6), McDonald (7), Johansen (7), Cairney (7), Ayite (6), Mitrovic (8), Sessegnon (8)
Subs: Ojo (5), Odoi (n/a)
Wolves: Ruddy (5), Boly (6), Coady (5), Bennett (6), Doherty (6), Douglas (5), Saiss (5), N'Diaye (6), Cavaleiro (6), Costa (6), Bonatini (5)
Subs: Jota (4), Afobe (5), Gibbs-White (4)
Man of the match: Aleksandar Mitrovic
With a streak of seven successive home wins under their belt, Fulham looked relaxed and confident in the early stages as they dominated possession and registered the game's first chance when Floyd Ayite dragged a shot wide from 12 yards.
Chances came at a premium, particularly with Wolves missing the creative influence of the suspended Ruben Neves, but the visitors looked to have weathered the early storm created by their opponents and they were denied by the offside flag on numerous occasions.
But seven minutes before the break, Fulham took the lead - and it was only ever going to be one player. Mitrovic hit a low shot, but Ruddy could only palm the ball to his right, where Sessegnon was on hand to slot into the unguarded net.
Nuno's men started strongly in the second half as they looked to claw themselves back into the game and Diogo Jota was introduced just past the hour mark, but Fulham were not keen to rest on their laurels.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic made three changes from the team that drew 1-1 with Bristol City on Wednesday evening, with Ryan Fredericks, Tomas Kalas and Floyd Ayite all brought into the starting lineup.
Nuno, meanwhile, replaced influential pair Ruben Neves - suspended after picking up his 10th yellow card of the season against Norwich in midweek - and Diogo Jota with Romain Saiss and Leo Bonatini.
They fended off intense pressure from the visitors at times, but doubled their lead when January loan signing Mitrovic used his physicality to hold off Coady and fire past Ruddy at the near post from just outside the area - his second in two games.
Wolves almost pulled one back with four minutes to play, but Benik Afobe's attack was brought to a swift conclusion by Tim Ream, before Jota struck the rebound over the bar.
Man of the match - Aleksandar Mitrovic
The Serbian frontman showed just how much of an asset he will be in the Whites' promotion quest over the next few months, playing a key role in the first goal, before scoring the second himself.
Man of the Match - @FulhamFC's Aleksandar Mitrovic— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) February 24, 2018
Attempts: 4 (joint-most in game)
On target: 3 (most in game)
Touches in opp. box: 6 (2nd most in game)
Scored 2 goals in last 2 games - his 1st club goals since August. pic.twitter.com/mevt70g3Np
The 23-year-old adds a physical element that may prove important with a fixture list that includes Derby, Sheffield United and Preston.
Slavisa Jokanovic: "I definitely believe this was one of the best games we had at this level. My team played a very good game. Wolves are a strong, fast team. We showed we can play against them. We came through adversity. We were brave, with great attitudes.
"We tried to not give them any space to move and at the end of the day we scored the necessary goals. Besides a good chance for them at the end of the game, we controlled the match-especially in the second half-and we must be satisfied."
Nuno Espirito Santo: "They were the better team and we struggled to go out and get possession, it's the reality of football and we keep on going. The focus is exactly the same, but we must do better than today. First-half I think was good, well played by both teams, both teams were organised and creating good football and chances on goal.
"The goal puts them in the best moment and shook us a little bit, then the second-half we started better but Fulham gained control. We created a lot of options to finish our actions, but they were not finished. The last pass or cross which gives you control of the game, we must improve because we have to be clinical.
"Today, Fulham deserved it. They have good momentum and are a good team."
Fulham face another test next weekend when they travel to Pride Park to take on Gary Rowett's Derby, while Wolves host struggling Reading on Saturday evening, live on Sky Sports Football.