After winning a game by seven goals to nil, it could be seen as being hard to back up a performance of that calibre with one of a similar standard. Immediately after hitting Blackburn for 7 in November, we just about edged past Peterborough United in the game that followed…
Our opponents this time were Bristol City, a foe all too familiar following our cup victory at Ashton Gate just a week ago. Historically, our form against the Robins hasn’t been brilliant. In fact, going into yesterday’s game, we hadn’t beaten them at home since before the turn of the century (December 28, 1997). But boy did we put that bad run to bed in some style.
Marco Silva named an unchanged eleven from Tuesday’s masterclass in Berkshire, and when the game eventually got underway following a delay due to a power-cut in the stadium, we looked the brighter of the two sides and likelier to score first. However, young forward Antoine Semenyo scored with just seven minutes on the clock to give the visitors the lead.
The goal was met with groans and jeers from an expectant Hammersmith End aside from one man in a hospitality box just to the right of H8, a City fan, who had no issue giving it large to the crowd with his side in front. His medicine was coming though. (NB: It’s not usually advisable to take the same medicine 6 times in 90 minutes).
Aleksandar Mitrovic levelled just 14 minutes later, powering home a header to restore parity. I’m running out of words for the big man, but the few I’ve got I’ll save for later on in the piece. However, rather frustratingly, Semenyo struck again just before the half-hour mark as the Robins regained the lead. It was a good finish, but only came about as a result of some abject defending from Harrison Reed and Tim Ream, neither of whom fancied leaving anything on the 22-year-old as he galloped towards goal.
Again, their lead didn’t last long, and Neeskens Kebano headed home to finish the first attack since the restart and level the scores once more. Kebano has really come into his own this season, and following a loan move to Middlesbrough during the last campaign, is now playing full of confidence and looks capable of causing trouble every time he gets the ball.
Fabio Carvalho gave us the lead five minutes later, steering a wonderfully controlled finish past Max O’Leary in the Bristol City net. It was a difficult goal to score but was executed near perfectly by the 19-year-old. With defenders on either side, it would have been easy for Carvalho to just smash it goal wards and hope – but he went one better passing the ball effortlessly into the far corner.
Mitrovic then scored two quick-fire goals before the break to complete an unbelievable hat-trick, take the score to 5-2, and score his 27th goal of the season. The record goals scored by one player across a 46-game season is 31. It’s January the 16th and we have 21 games left to play!
He is a firm fan favourite, and each game looks as if he’s improving some more. It’s easy to forget he’s just 27, with his best years arguably still to come. The third finish was one of sheer quality – bringing the ball down and steering it into the top corner from 15 yards. He is now just one goal away from 10th place in our all-time goal scorers list and I genuinely believe that we could be looking at a 40-goal-a-season striker here. Only one man in the clubs history has achieved such a feat (Frank Newton 43), so this is a massive opportunity for our talisman to make several pieces of individual history.
The half-time whistle blew to bring an end to 45 (!) minutes of football that contained seven goals. We had scored 10 goals across two halves if you take the five from the second half in Reading. Seriously impressive stuff.
The second half was largely a training exercise, save for a few contributions from Kebano, dynamic as ever. The first was a wonderful goal, as he plucked the ball out of the sky and expertly volleyed home from a tight angle as he claimed his brace and set his sights on the second hat-trick of the game.
He was presented with a golden opportunity for a third just minutes later but somehow didn’t convert from a few yards out, to the confusion of pretty much the entire stadium. Oh well, when you’ve already scored six, missing those can be excused!
The game ended 6-2 and it was a thoroughly pleasing afternoon. A special mention to Tom Cairney, who put in another blinding performance. I’ve said it time and again, but I’m so glad he’s playing well and I think the team is better for it. It’s good he can get a proper run of games whilst Seri is out at AFCON.
In earnest, this was meant to be my last match of the season as I’m flying to Spain to study abroad on the day of the Blackpool game. But, after that showing, there’s no way I’m missing out on Tuesday! Come on Fulham!