Fulham 0-0 Derby: Wayne Rooney’s Rams ends Cottagers seven-match winning streak in a hard fought draw as hosts fail to strengthen position at the top of the Championship
- Wayne Rooney’s Derby held the in-form Fulham to a 0-0 draw at Craven Cottage
- Fulham squandered clear-cut chances in Aleksandar Mitrovic’s absence
- But they remain top of the table while Derby stay rooted to the bottom
Fulham sorely missed the clinical finishing touch of their talisman Aleksandar Mitrovic as they were frustrated by basement club Derby.
The Serbian forward, the leading scorer in the Championship with 21 goals, was absent with what Fulham manager Marco Silva vaguely described as ‘issues’ after Saturday’s win over Barnsley.
It was clarified this meant either injury or illness, with Tom Cairney and Marek Rodak also missing.
Rodrigo Muniz of Fulham attempts an overhead kick whilst under pressure from Craig Forsyth
Without the staggeringly in-form Mitrovic, Fulham just couldn’t make their pressure pay and claim and eighth straight win as Wayne Rooney’s Derby took their points tally back into positive territory after 21 deducted.
Their fans ended proceedings by singing the Great Escape theme but it will require a footballing miracle from here to make up the 16-point gap to safety even if we’re not yet out of November.
But it was a missed opportunity for Fulham to extend their lead at the top with Bournemouth held to a draw across town at Millwall.
The evening’s first surprise came when the teams were announced an hour before kick-off but Mitrovic’s absence meant an opportunity for the 20-year-old Brazilian Rodrigo Muniz to lead the line and add to his three goals already this season.
While Fulham enjoyed the lion’s share of possession during the first-half, the contest was actually pretty even when boiled down to clear-cut openings.
There were glimpses of Fulham’s slickness but not what you would describe as constant pressure to keep Derby pinned in.
Jason Knight of Derby County is challenged by Kenny Tete of Fulham
Fabio Carvalho stunned their first chance wide after three minutes and they came even closer when Jean Michael Seri saw clear grass open up before him.
His 25-yard shot swerved deviously and crashed back off the underside of the bar, clipping diving Derby keeper Kelle Roos on the back as it came out but bouncing to safety.
Roos was able to react and change direction in time to make a save when a free-kick by Neeskens Kebano smacked Craig Forsyth in the face and diverted.
And there were chance in quick succession for Carvalho and then Muniz late in the half, both sent wide.
Derby’s travelling support summed up their fighting spirit in hugely trying circumstances by singing ‘we’ll fight to the end’.
They would be 18th and looking up the table rather than towards League One if those two points deductions, totalling 21 points, had not been handed down by the EFL.
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga; Tete, Adarabioyo, Ream (c), Robinson; Seri, Reed (Onomah 66); Wilson (Knockaert 78), Carvalho, Kebano; Muniz
Substitutes not used: Las (GK); Hector, Odoi, De Cordova Reid, Bryan
Derby County (4-3-3): Roos; Byrne, Jagielka, Davies, Forsyth (Morrison 83); Bird, Thompson, Shinnie; Ebosele (Kazim-Richards 70), Lawrence (c), Knight
Substitutes not used: Allsop (GK); Jozwiak, Stearman, Sibley, Williams
Booked: Ebosele, Shinnie
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham)
Rooney spent much of his career in a Manchester United team unwilling to accept the notion of defeat and he isn’t about to start now.
His team carried purpose when they crossed the halfway line, with Curtis Davies brushing off Seri early on to lay the ball off to Tom Lawrence. He cut inside but scuffed his shot from a good position and stand-in keeper Paulo Gazzaniga could save.
And the Argentine stopper had to be alert to push the ball clear when Lawrence was inadvertently played clear by Seri’s crunching slide tackle on Festy Ebosele. Tim Ream was forced to mop up and Fulham had been warned.
You expected a Fulham onslaught after the break and Carvalho was soon testing Roos with a low shot that lacked power.
Veteran Derby defender Phil Jagielka got a boot in the way of Kebano’s effort after he turned in the six-yard box.
A sharp spin in a crowded penalty area saw Carvalho hit a shot that struck the base of the post with Roos grounded before Muniz headed the follow-up wide.
Both Marco Silva and Wayne Rooney were in deep thought as they walked off for the interval
Fulham grew more frantic as time ebbed away. With 10 left on the clock, Carvalho showed more skill to work a shooting chance in the box but Roos pushed it away and Curtis Davies cleared Muniz’s follow-up off the line.
Muniz, not afraid to attempt the spectacular, then sent an acrobatic effort just over the bar.
Derby could even have stolen all three points in stoppage time when Gazzaniga turned Jason Knight’s shot behind at his near post. But four points taken off the top two in four days isn’t exactly a bad return.
Derby Captain Tom Lawrence went close to giving his side the lead on a few occasions