Jack and Loz at the Cottage - Blog 275

Date: 2nd March 2024

Opposition: Brighton

Score: 3-0

Goal scorers: Wilson, Muniz, Traore

Weather: Sunshine after rain

Atmosphere: slightly incredulous

MOTM: if Andreas had scored or if Harry had played the whole game we might have had to debate this for longer but there is really only one contender. Rodrigo Muniz now has 5 goals in 5 matches. This was yet another assured, accomplished centre forward performance from a player who’s still young and learning. He uses his speed, strength and mobility to….well, we have to say it - terrify defences. And he’s so endearing - it’s hard to tell what he’s more excited about - his goal tally or his improving English ❤️

Drinks: the Kings Arms

Dinner: Reun Thai

What’s the opposite of a bogey team? Whatever it is, Brighton is ours. They haven’t beaten us in the Premier League; we took 6 points off them last season and 4 in this one. Even better is the fact that Brighton is cool, stylish and cultured, whereas the home of our actual bogey team, Burnley, er…..isn’t any of those things.

However, despite our good record against Brighton, our excellent win over Manchester United last week and the fact that our striker is currently the best footballer on the planet, we didn’t go into the match counting…..seagulls. We expected a tough game. We didn’t get one but the match was nowhere near as one-sided as the scoreline suggests. Brighton are beset with injuries, they played in the week, they’re focused on Europe. But they’re still a side to be reckoned with and the convincing victory is a testament to hard graft, detailed preparation and intelligent tactics. Having a genius for a manager is really useful.

Those tactics were all about patience, pressing and precision. Despite the fact Brighton had most of the ball in the first half, Fulham dominated. We were happy to soak up the pressure and wait for the right moments to strike. And when we did strike, we didn’t miss.

We’ve mentioned Rodrigo already but we can’t stop talking about him whenever we discuss Fulham (a lot!) and we can’t not talk about him again here. For the first goal, he battled for the ball and didn’t give up until he’d won it and directed into Harry’s path. Harry did the rest with a brilliant finish. The second goal was a breathtaking counterattack. A tightly strung chain of passes moved the ball from one end of the pitch to the other in seconds, Harry swung it in and Rodrigo arrived at just the right Moment to drive it past the keeper.

But this half of football, which was both entertaining and clinical, wasn’t just the Harry and Rodrigo show. Sasa and Captain Reed carried on where they left off at Man U controlling the midfield and ensuring Brighton’s plentiful possession was ineffective leaving Brazilian International Andreas to concentrate on creativity. Tosin and Bassey proved once again that they’re our best centre back pairing while Iwobi was making the defenders nervous with his unpredictable runs and latent goal threat.

A side like Brighton was always going to react to a half like that. Roberto de Zerbi - looking smart with some nice white accessories - gambled early with some attacking subs. Marko Silva - looking dark, damp and animated - didn’t blink. For a while (a long while if you were clinging to the edge of your seat in the Hammy End peering at the frantic action in front of the Putney goal) Brighton looked dominant and dangerous. Leno was busy and there was no relief from the constant pressure. We looked in danger of falling into disarray but the defence stood firm, helped by the later introduction of the calm and solid presence that Tom Cairney has become.

Fulham squandered several chances to put the game to bed and soothe our fraying nerves. Tosin headed wide from a corner, Harry messed up a one on one and Andreas - well, were not sure what he did actually, but it didn’t work. It took the introduction of the ever-reliable Bobby Decordova-Reid and the ever-oiled Adama Traore (or “Amanda” as he is known to Gentlemen Jim) to finish things off. Bobby won the ball yards ahead of Adama but that didn’t matter. Adama could have started his run at Putney Bridge and still got to the edge of the box to receive the ball. His finish was as good as his timing and the victory was sealed.

That’s 2 wins a row against 2 teams above us in the table. The clean sheet must be emphasised too - unlike the outfield players who, as good was they were, weren’t flawless - Leno made no mistakes. In those 2 games, 5 different players have scored 5 goals and we won both matches without the indomitable Joao Pahlinha. Out of uncertain beginnings, this year’s Fulham team has moulded into a side that’s as exciting to watch as it is easy to love. With subs celebrating goals as if they were on the pitch, and the prolonged applause at the end of the match, both team spirit and the connection between fans and players is at an all time high.

Random Musings:-

- It was great that the Club used this match to raise awareness of domestic abuse in association with Women’s Aid

- (although it seemed incongruous to celebrate gambling in the same half time slot)

- This was Bobby’s 200th game for Fulham. How many positions has he played in those 200? What a versatile, dependable asset he is for us

- And what was he saying to Adama in that long, fierce hug after then 3rd goal?

- Joao might be indomitable but is he also undroppable?

- A shout out to Timothy Castagne for the foot juggling which kept the ball in during the second half

- We haven’t thought so much about orange highlighters since we were in the Championship….

- Leno gave away one glove. What’s he going to do with the other one???

- The Brighton fans tried to fit De Zerbi’s name into our song about the ref. It didn’t work.

- The ref was dezerbing of some criticism however

- On the subject of songs, how convenient that our new hero’s name has 2 syllables…

- …..and how many more goals will he score before another song reverberates around Craven Cottage again…..? 🔥

In every season, in every league, a gap develops in the middle of the table and you always want to be the right side of that gap. Fulham are still 12th but a clear 7 points ahead of Bournemouth in 13th. There are 11 games left and we are looking up not down, and the top half is squarely in our sites.

And it feels like those 11 games could be amongst the best of the season, thanks in no small part to our Samba Whites. This is quite incredible but on the pitch at Craven Cottage on Saturday afternoon was the past, present and future of Brazilian football. And as great as Willian was, and as good as Andreas now is, Muniz has the potential to eclipse them both.

There could soon be a time when Brazil’s number 9 is Fulham’s number 9 too.