|Fulham 4 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Tuesday, 2nd January 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Fulham 4-1 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Tuesday, 2nd Jan 2018 22:01
Four goals in seven minutes after Town defender Jordan Spence had been red-carded saw Fulham come from behind to beat the Blues 4-1 at Craven Cottage. Joe Garner gave Town the lead a minute before the break but the match turned on Spence’s dismissal for an off-the-ball barge on Aboubakar Kamara in the 54th minute with Ryan Sessegnon equalising on 69, Kamara securing the lead on 72 and then the pair each scoring again on 74 and 76.
Cole Skuse and Tommy Smith returned to the Town line-up for Kevin Bru, who dropped to the bench, and Adam Webster, who was ruled out due to the achilles injury which forced him off at the weekend. Skuse, back after his ankle injury, took up his usual role in the Blues midfield.
Centre-half Smith was making his first Town appearance since the 3-1 defeat at Cardiff on October 31st having recovered from the calf injury he suffered while on international duty with New Zealand.
Luke Hyam was included on the bench for the first time this season following the knee operation he underwent in September. Hyam’s most recent appearance for Town was at Derby on the final day of the 2015/16 campaign. David McGoldrick was again among the subs.
Adam McDonnell, who has been on the bench in recent matches, missed out as he was unwell.
For Fulham, Ollie Norwood and Kamara started with Tomas Kalas and Kevin McDonald dropping to the bench.
In the opening minute Celina, who initially appeared to be in a central role behind strike pair Garner and Martyn Waghorn before moving to the left of a 4-4-2 system, sent in a Blues freekick from the left which the home defence headed clear.
In windy and rainy conditions, the Cottagers created their first opening a minute later, Ryan Fredericks cutting a low ball across the area from the right but just too far in front of Kamara, scorer of both the West Londoners’ goals in their 2-2 draw at Hull City on Saturday. On six, Stefan Johansen shot just over from 25 yards.
Jordan Spence diverted a dangerous Floyd Ayité cross from the right over in the eighth minute with the Whites started to dominate as they did in their 2-0 defeat of the Blues at Portman Road in August.
Bialkowski was forced into his first save of the game in the 12th minute, palming away a Kamara shot from the right of the area. A minute later the Frenchman hit an effort over.
Fulham continued to dominate, although Town pressure led to the home side surrendering possession on the right on 17 but Waghorn was crowded out as he cut into the box.
Three minutes later, Johansen shot wide from not too far outside the area but referee Keith Stroud awarded a corner.
The Fulham pressure continued with Sheyi Ojo hitting a low shot wide from the edge of the box, then Norwood hit a 25-yard freekick over.
With the rain continuing to fall heavily and the swirling wind making high balls and long passes difficult to deal with, Town pressured the Whites into a 28th minute mistake which might have yielded a goal.
Norwood was forced to make a risky pass across his area which Celina read ahead of Denis Odoi but the Kosovan international was unable to get the ball under control in the sodden conditions.
Having withstood the spell under the cosh the Blues started to see more of the ball and just after the half hour Waghorn struck a shot on the turn well over from distance.
Moments later, the former Rangers man was fed in on the left of the box but Tim Ream saw the ball through to his keeper. On 34 Ayité was replaced by Neeskens Kebano.
As the half moved into its final 10 minutes Fulham turned the screw once again and the Cottagers should have scored on 39 when sub Kebano cut the ball back from the left without the outside of his right boot but Kamara was unable to add the final touch at the far post.
A minute before the break the Blues were forced into a change when Ward, who had undergone treatment a couple of times during the half, was replaced by Freddie Sears as Town prepared to take a freekick.
And from the set piece, the Blues took the lead. Waghorn’s earlier freekicks had all been hampered by the wind, but on this occasion Town’s 10-goal top scorer whipped it in from the right and Garner headed his eighth goal of the season into the net.
Whites keeper Marcus Bettinelli had arrived late and collided with the Town scorer as he nodded home but after treatment was able to continue.
Fulham went looking for an injury time equaliser, Kebano hitting a low shot from outside the box to Bialkowski’s right but the Blues keeper saved confidently and they were unable to threaten again before the break and Town went in a goal in front.
Having repelled everything the dominant home side threw at them, occasionally riding their luck, the Blues once again profited from a brilliant Waghorn set piece and Garner header.
Town needed a repeat of that steadfast defensive performance in the second half if they were to open 2018 with a victory.
With the wind and rain having largely subsided, Ojo turned the first shot of the second period well over three minutes after the restart.
Connolly was shown the game’s first yellow card a minute later after a foul on home skipper Tom Cairney 25 yards out to the right. Johansen’s freekick was hit straight into the wall, then Norwood shot wide.
In the 54th minute the Blues were reduced to 10 men when Spence was shown Town’s first red card of the season.
Kamara had shoved Sears over as the pair had battled for a ball which the Whites striker then passed backwards. The Blues right-back then needlessly clattered into the Fulham man, who was sent flying, although appeared to make as much of the incident as he could.
Referee Stroud, who had failed to issue Sheffield Wednesday’s Glenn Loovens with a card of either colour for his horror challenge on David McGoldrick last month, took the advice of his linesman before dismissing Spence, who was clearly incensed by the Fulham player’s reaction and the decision as he left the field. There was, however, no need for his reaction.
Town quickly swapped Celina for Dominic Iorfa, who went to right-back with Waghorn moving into midfield.
Ream was booked for a foul on Garner, then Kebano was fortunate not to join him for a very late challenge on Connolly inside the Town area.
The Blues had managed to withstand an initial spell of pressure immediately after the sending off, but after a brief lull - in part due to several silly Fulham fouls - the home side began to threaten again.
Match Gallery: 6 photos
Lucas Piazon replaced Ojo on 65 then was immediately booked for a dive inside the Town box.
But the home fans, who claimed they had been denied a penalty in that incident, didn’t have to wait too much longer for an equaliser.
In the 67th minute Kamara crossed from the left to Kebano, who miscued across goal and Sessegnon nodded home.
Three minutes later it was 2-1. Kebano cut across for Norwood, his shot was blocked but fell to Kamara, who turned in from close range.
And a further two minutes later it was 3-1 to the home side. Johansen worked his way to the byline with clever skills on the right of the area and cut across the six-yard box to Sessegnon, who tapped in his second of the evening at the far post.
And the Fulham goal deluge wasn’t over. On 76 Kamara hit a shot from the edge of the box and a deflection wrong-footed Bialkowski.
The Blues had held out for 15 minutes after the red card but then conceded four goals in seven minutes.
The by now buoyant home crowd were calling for a fifth and on 79 Cairney struck a low shot which Bialkowski saved down to his left.
Hyam made his return to action for Connolly, who had undergone treatment for the second time before making way, in the 82nd minute, 19 months after his last first-team appearance.
Knudsen shot wide right-footed when he should have crossed in the 85th minute, then Bialkowski was off his line sharply to block from Kamara after Johansen had played him in. On 88 Sessegnon was replaced by Rafa Soares to a standing ovation.
Late on, Garner was booked for a foul, then Kamara shot wide for the home side. Deep in injury time Waghorn and Kebano were both booked, the former for a foul and the latter for aiming a hand towards the Town striker’s neck in retaliation.
Just before the whistle, skipper Chambers frustratedly slammed the ball and was shown a yellow card, summing up the evening as a whole for Town.
Having got their lead the Blues needed to continue their solid defensive performance after the break.
That they had managed to do until Spence’s needless and uncharacteristic hot-headed reaction to Kamara’s challenge on Sears.
The Blues held out for a quarter of an hour but once the first goal had gone in the floodgates opened with Fulham carving Town apart all too regularly.
A defeat in 2018’s opening game sees the Blues drop to 12th, seven points off the play-offs with a break from Championship action for the FA Cup third round tie against Sheffield United at Portman Road on Saturday.
Fulham: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Sessegnon (Soares 88), Odoi, Johansen, Cairney (c), Ayité (Kebano 34), Ream, Norwood, Ojo (Piazon 65), Kamara. Unused: Button, McDonald, Fonte, Kalas.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers (c), T Smith, Knudsen, Skuse, Connolly (Hyam 82), Celina (Iorfa 57), Waghorn, Ward (Sears 44), Garner. Unused: M Crowe, McGoldrick, Bru, Kenlock. Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).
Photo: Action Images
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