A ruthless Fulham punished Swansea’s, while stretching their lead atop The Championship table. The Swans were the architects of their own downfall having shaded the first 40+ minutes of the contest. But an inexplicably reckless challenge from Ryan Manning shortly before the break, followed by a moment devoid of composure even sooner after the interval, set The Whites on their way to a comfortable victory in the second half.
Before Manning’s indiscretion, Swansea had harnessed a level of control over the game, and while they hadn’t created much, bar a speculative effort from Michael Obafemi, they were heading towards a half-time break in which the home dressing room would have had a more satisfied aura, as things stood five minutes prior to the break. In the first half Swansea won the possession battle with 54%.
For their part, Fulham had grown into the game in the final 15 minutes of the first period, but hadn’t shown anywhere near the threat or control that has become common place this season. It was not entirely unexpected, Swansea had enjoyed more possession in the reverse fixture, and they regularly enjoy more of the ball than their opposition. Nevertheless, Marco Silva would have wanted to see his aside assert themselves on the game more, and may well have seen just that after having time to pass on instructions to his players.
Those instructions were made easier to carry out after the hosts were reduced to 10 men, and even more so when Swansea gifted Fulham possession on the edge of the home team’s penalty area. Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 35th goal of the season was soon followed by an own goal, and the contest was effectively over at that point. The visitors enjoyed 79% possession through the second period, dominating the ball and scoring five of their seven shots on target, further underlining the ruthless streak of this side, embodied by the talismanic Mitrovic. The one disappointment would have been conceding a soft goal from a Swansea set-piece. It was a consolation at 3-1, but Silva likes this team to continue to push for goals even after a match appears to be won, and it was the final strike that will live longest in the memory.
Since arriving, Neco Williams’ attacking numbers have been nothing short of impressive. In seven appearances, the full back has recorded two assists and has now added two goals. He could also be credited with an assist for the opener this past weekend, after his shot dropped to Neeskens Kebano via Thomas Kaminski in the Blackburn goal. Kebano gladly put the ball into the net. For comparison, Antonee Robinson has played more than four times the number of league games for The Whites this season, but has the same number of goals, and just two more assists. His leading contender for a starting sport, Kenny Tete, has managed just a single assist in 15 appearances. Joe Bryan has seen his opportunities limited to nine appearances and is yet to register a goal involvement.
In a system that encourages the full backs to contribute in the final third, Williams is proving the perfect fit. A rather left-field signing on deadline day, he has become a key part of the team almost instantly. Tete is available again and has been for the past five fixture following an injury, but with Williams showing this sort of form, it is hard to see the Dutch international reclaiming his place any time soon. His stunning second goal was fitting, after coming so close to what would have been an even more extraordinary strike, which hit the bar following an effort from the halfway line at Craven Cottage against Blackburn.
Williams’ signing is the sort of inspired business that this team will need more of in the summer, as they continue to march towards promotion to the top tier. Marco Silva has seen additions that compliment the style of his team, as well as increasing the quality of his options. So much so, that on nights like this one in South Wales, any weakness is pounced on, and ruthlessly punished. Teams know they can ill-afford to provide Fulham with a helping hand, but the anxiety of doing just that, may see more favours handed out as the season reaches it’s climax.
The last four days have been two small steps towards the end of the season, but with Bournemouth dropping points in both of their fixtures in the same timeframe, it feels like two giant leaps towards glory.