Having just come off the back of our biggest away win in 22 years, I was understandably confident as the players emerged from the Millwall tunnel on a hazy Tuesday night.
I wasn’t expecting anywhere near the same scoreline as the Huddersfield game. Despite our great record at the New Den, it can be a tough place to go and pick up a result. However, it looked as if Fulham were doing everything possible to disprove that theory- and took the lead within 3 minutes. Aleksandar Mitrovic, who all being well looks back to his monstrous best, flicked home a Fabio Carvalho cross to send a packed out away end into raptures.
Just five minutes later, Carvalho doubled the lead. Played in by the diminutive Neeskens Kebano, Carvalho swung his boot at the ball and fired past the stranded Bartosz Bialkowski from close range. Two nil up inside 8 minutes. Dreamland. Things went from amazing to simply incredible as Carvalho rolled back the years with his celebration- putting his fingers in his ears and silencing the Den’s crowd- just like our last academy star, Ryan Sessegnon did when he scored in that superb 3-0 victory back in April 2018.
There are several similarities between Carvalho and Sessegnon. The pair are friends off the pitch and both possess a wicked first touch, turn of pace and a mean finish (to list just a few shared attributes). Sessegnon created an incredible legacy at Fulham, three seasons in the first team in which he established himself as one of the team’s top performers. However, though it’s very early on, I genuinely believe Carvalho could surpass Sessegnon’s impact at Fulham. He’s only 18 but can create chances from nothing and with 2 goals in 3 league games this season, Fabio has the world at his feet.
We maintained a fast tempo throughout the game, despite the two-goal lead. I can think of a certain (recent) manager who when leading by two would proceed to shut up shop and throw away the key. But not Marco Silva. We looked dynamic and dangerous for long periods, and it’s a genuine mystery as to how we didn’t win the game by four or five clear goals. Mitrovic and Carvalho (again) went close but Bialkowski fought hard and made a string of great saves to keep Millwall in the game.
It wouldn’t be a Fulham game if we didn’t make the most comfortable of wins completely uncomfortable by conceding close to the end. Benik Afobe scored a goal reminiscent of Mitro’s at Huddersfield- the ball bounced off his leg and looped over Gazzaniga five minutes from time to ensure I wouldn’t get to the end of the game without that horrendous sick feeling embracing my stomach.
However, the introduction of Alfie Mawson, who was making his first appearance of the season following a loan move to Bristol City, helped sure up the backline and got us through the final few minutes. It would have been a real shame to have walked away from such a scintillating performance (right across the team) with just one point in hand.
At the final whistle, the players walked across to acknowledge the travelling fans who were in superb form and comfortably outsung Millwall and their famous eelectric atmosphere. “We are top of the league!” rang out across the ground. Mitro spent a few minutes bathing in the adoration of the faithful before captain Tim Ream and Carvalho, who won man of the match, were also acknowledged.
All in all, a successful night out across London was had. I’m definitely not alone when I say that I am already so excited to see what we can achieve this season. We have gotten off to a better start than I could have imagined- but it’s about keeping that momentum up now. The work is only just beginning.
Come on Fulham!