Fulham 2 – 1 Southampton

December 31, 2022 0 By Cypher9ja

Southampton remained rooted to the foot of the table after a late winner by Fulham’s Joao Palhinha condemned the visitors to a fifth straight Premier League defeat.

James Ward-Prowse’s superb second-half free-kick, which cancelled out his earlier own-goal, seemed set to secure his side a much-needed point.

But a clever flick-on from Kenny Tete set up Palhinha’s 88th-minute header.

Aleksandar Mitrovic missed an injury-time penalty and the chance to add gloss to the scoreline.

Fulham are up to seventh on the back of their fourth win in seven games.

The hosts paid tribute to one of their own before kick-off.

Manager Marco Silva, one of his mostly fondly-remembered predecessors Roy Hodgson and George Cohen’s son Anthony laid wreathes around the centre circle in memory of the 1966 World Cup winner, who died at the age of 83 on 23 December.

Cohen was born in Fulham and swept the Craven Cottage stands as part of the ground staff before embarking on a 459-game one-club career with the Whites. A minute’s applause ended with the home fans chanting the former full-back’s name.

Once underway, Southampton had the clearest early chance when Che Adams darted behind the hosts’ high line, but goalkeeper Bernd Leno did well to repel his effort.

Mohamed Elyounoussi skimmed a shot narrowly over the crossbar, but Fulham gradually asserted themselves in midfield, with Palhinha to the fore, and was rewarded on 32 minutes.

Willian clipped a corner to the edge of the penalty area, which Andreas Pereira met with his instep. The volley was well-struck but seemed to be heading off target until Ward-Prowse’s instinctive attempt to block instead ensured it ended up in the back of the net.

Pereira stabbed a shot wide after the break as Fulham started the second half brightly.

But Ward-Prowse, who is second only to David Beckham in Premier League free-kick goals, gives Saints a threat that few other sides can offer at set-pieces.

The 28-year-old captain whipped a superb swirling free-kick around the wall and beyond Leno’s dive to cancel out his own goal and level the contest.

It seemed the scores would remain equal before the contest sprung back into life in the final few minutes.

Tom Cairney and Willian almost combined to set up Pereira at one end before Southampton substitute Romain Perraud threatened at the other.

The hosts went ahead again when another well-worked set-piece isolated Palhinha, who stands 6ft 3in tall, against a clutch of smaller defenders.

Mitrovic, who has 10 goals in his previous 13 Premier League games, had a chance to add to his prolific season after a foul on Dan James. But his penalty, well saved by Gavin Bazunu, ended an uncharacteristically quiet afternoon for the Serbian striker.

Southampton’s next game is against Nottingham Forest, one place above them in the table, at home on Wednesday.

Manager Nathan Jones, who took over from sacked Ralph Hasenhuttl in November, said his players need to be sharper tactically and mentally to avoid their efforts being undermined by more bad defending.

“We didn’t do the basics well on two occasions and that is what let us down,” he said. “They have to be ironed out on the training ground and in peoples’ heads.

“The overall performance was good today – we negated a fluent team – but we have to be better in those moments. We are gifting teams goals, they don’t have to do much to score, and that has to change.”