Match Report: Fulham 2-0 Leeds United - Mitrovic punishes profligate Whites
Wednesday, 4th Apr 2018 12:02 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United failed to record successive victories in the Championship for the first time since December as they were made to rue a lack of precision in front of goal in an eventual 2-0 defeat by Fulham at Craven Cottage on Tuesday night.
Leeds United have fallen into 13th position in the Championship table after being worsted by promotion aspirants Fulham, who won the match 2-0 owing to goals from Kevin McDonald and Aleksandar Mitrovic to continue the exertion of pressure on Cardiff City in second place.
United were vociferously supported by some 3,500 fans at Craven Cottage but they were doubtless left disappointed as Paul Heckingbottom’s charges succumbed to defeat, with Fulham’s victory never appearing imperiled at any stage.
To the surprise of many beholders, it was in fact Leeds who took it upon themselves to make the first attacking foray of the match inside the first minute, with Stuart Dallas firing well over the crossbar after skilful build-up from Samuel Saiz and others.
Consequently, the hosts began to assert themselves. Coolly, calmly, they retained possession of the ball, passing and probing and seeking to fashion chances, which they did.
First, Aleksandar Mitrovic, on loan to Fulham from Newcastle United, saw a left-footed strike fizz narrowly wide of the left-hand post after intricate attacking play by Ryan Sessegnon, Kevin McDonald and Matt Targett, with Targett having crossed for the Serbian.
Fulham displayed no sign of relenting, and six minutes thereafter they should have taken the lead. Another slick, seamless attack culminated in Sessegnon crossing from the left for Floyd Ayite, who could only crash his effort from close proximity against the post - a real let-off for the visitors.
When the two sides met at Elland Road in August, they played out a highly competitive goalless draw, with conspicuous goalscoring openings a profound rarity. This was certainly not the case here.
Shortly after Ayite’s mortification, Fulham surged forth again, with McDonald seeing a powerful effort blocked before United ‘keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell averted the danger under pressure from Mitrovic as the ball careered into the air.
From the ensuing corner, Mitrovic met the ball emphatically only to be denied by a determined save from Peacock-Farrell, who attentively blocked the header with his legs.
United’s resistance soon faltered, however. In the 33th minute, Fulham finally broke the deadlock as a corner culminated in the the ball striking McDonald’s backside before squirming past the desperate, flailing arms of Peacock-Farrell. There was a certain irony to one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams in the division scoring in such an unsightly way, but they all count and the advantage was one Fulham merited for their continued application of attacking pressure.
As they had done in the first, Fulham made a sprightly start to the second half.
Ayite saw a shot blocked in the 53rd minute, before Sessegnon, after excellent work by Johansen and Tom Cairney saw the precocious youngster presented with the chance to shoot from inside the area. Shoot he did, with his curling effort appearing destined for the net, only for Mitrovic to inadvertently block the shot - much to Slavisa Jokanovic’s exasperation.
Sessegnon was then denied by Peacock-Farrell after a swift Fulham counterattack, with the youthful goalkeeper proving himself to be one of United’s better performers at present.
Leeds fashioned their first clear opening of the match just three minutes later - and were made to rue Caleb Ekuban’s spurning of it. Although he had scored his maiden Championship goal against Bolton Wanderers on Good Friday, he arguably should have had three in that match, and after being played in on goal by Gaetano Berardi, he could only direct a fairly feeble attempt straight at Fulham stopper Marcus Bettinelli.
And then Fulham broke, quickly and decisively, to seal the points. Another alacritous counter soon resulted in Cairney looking up and finding the correct pass for Mitrovic, who rifled the ball into the bottom corner for his tenth Championship goal of the season - just 14 seconds after Ekuban’s shot.
In the 79th minute, Leeds could have had a consolation goal but substitute Jay-Roy Grot could only head innocuously over the bar from three yards out after a sublime cross from Samuel Saiz.
Bar that, Fulham negotiated the game’s remainder with the sort of self-assurance one would expect of a team that aspires to compete in the Premier League, and United were condemned to a 17th defeat of the season.
One considers the gilt-edged chances passed up by Caleb Ekuban and Jay-Roy Grot, and ponders what might have been had either been converted, but Fulham were good value for the victory, possessing the quality where it mattered and led superbly by the abrasive Aleksandar Mitrovic, and United, now 13th in the table, must now look to the visit of Sunderland on Saturday afternoon.
Unused Subs: Button, Christie, Kebano, Piazon, Kamara.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1): Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, Pennington, Jansson, Berardi; Vieira, O’Kane (Phillips 23’); Alioski (Grot 72’), Saiz, Hernandez, Ekuban (Lasogga 72’).
Unused Subs: Lonergan, Pearce, Anita, Cibicki.
Match Statistics (Fulham / Leeds)
Shots: 17 / 9
On target: 4 / 2
Possession: 60% / 40%
Corners: 6 / 5
Fouls: 9 / 10
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Booked: Bettinelli, Johansen, McDonald (Fulham), Jansson, Phillips (Leeds).
Man of the Match: Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham).
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Photo: Action Images
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