Fulham 3-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Willian’s stoppage-time penalty grabbed a much-needed three points for Fulham in a dramatic 3-2 victory over Wolves on Monday Night Football.
Gary O’Neil’s Wolves side have now lost each of their last two away games to last-gasp spot-kicks, although Joao Gomes’ trip on Harry Wilson was less controversial than the foul for Sheffield United’s winning goal earlier this month. It took a long VAR check to confirm it but there was clear contact on the Welshman.
Willian had already beaten Jose Sa with a penalty at the start of the half, when Nelson Semedo had caught Tom Cairney, but for the second time in the match Fulham blew their advantage, with Hee-Chan Hwang scoring a penalty of his own after Tim Ream’s clumsy challenge.
Fulham boss Marco Silva pumped his fists with delight and a good deal of relief at the end of it all. His side had failed to win any of their last four and lost their last two but now move up to 14th, level with Wolves on 15 points.
Alex Iwobi had given the hosts a fast start in west London but, after Hwang had hit the bar, Matheus Cunha capitalised on some fine play from Jean-Ricner Bellegarde to head in an equaliser and Fulham’s uncertainty at both ends of the pitch was plain to see.
But a first win over Wolves in the Premier League at Craven Cottage since 2012 was eventually secured. Fulham may have been missing key defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha but Cairney and the standout Iwobi gave them bite and craft in the centre of the park.
They rode their luck, with a late, late handball penalty shout against Harrison Reed ignored and a strike from Hwang catching the roof of the net, but they found a way to get over the line.
Wolves had scored and conceded in each of their last 10 matches going into this one and while it wasn’t a fixture which immediately screamed goals, that streak had been extended inside 22 minutes on the banks of the Thames.
Fulham made a mockery of their recent struggles in front of goal with a super opener. Willian rolled Antonee Robinson in down the line and the full-back’s low cross was gleefully turned home by Iwobi, who was revelling in his more advanced role. It was his first goal of the season but fourth in nine matches against his favourite opponents Wolves.
With Fulham’s tails up and Iwobi creating another dangerous moment almost instantly from the restart, Wolves were inches away with a sharp response when Hwang cracked an effort against the bar on the counter. The equaliser wasn’t long coming.
Bellegarde turned Robinson inside out before standing the ball up at the back post for Cunha to power in his third of the campaign.
Fulham’s lack of confidence at both ends of the pitch was on show when Willian hesitated and missed the chance to convert from Iwobi’s deep cross later in the half and the hosts were soon scrambling in their own box when Toti drilled the ball into the danger zone. There was then almost a calamity when Bernd Leno lost the ball as he tried to play out under pressure from Mario Lemina.
Timothy Castagne had to produce a sensational piece of defending to prevent sub Matt Doherty from turning in at the near post from Hwang’s cross at the start of the second half – and it proved a decisive moment, with Fulham winning their first penalty just three minutes later.
During the long VAR check it became apparent Semedo had got a foot on the ball but his subsequent contact with Cairney was upheld as a foul and Willian coolly sent Jose Sa the wrong way to put Fulham back in front.
That goal breathed confidence into Fulham and Iwobi forced a good stop from Sa as they pressed forwards – but once again they gave up their advantage. Ream’s clumsy challenge on Hwang was deemed to have happened just inside the box by ref Michael Salisbury and then VAR, and the in-form Wolves forward thumped home the spot-kick for his seventh of his impressive season.
The drama was far from over, though, with Wilson tumbled in the final minute of normal time. It will bring back memories of Fabio Silva’s injury-time foul on George Baldock at Sheffield United for Wolves fans, who have seen their side on the wrong end of a number of VAR calls this term. It was the fifth penalty Wolves have conceded this season and Willian made sure it was punished again, powering past Sa, who guessed right this time.
There was threat of another late twist, when the ball popped up in the Fulham box and caught Reed’s arm but the final whistle brought relief and a rare victory over Wolves to the home side.
Fulham travel to Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday December 3; kick-off 2pm. Meanwhile, Wolves travel to Arsenal on Saturday December 2; kick-off 3pm.