Crystal Palace spoil Fulham's party as Premier League veterans shred Cottagers on the counter

Fulham 0-2 Crystal Palace: Schlupp and Zaha scored in each half to deflate the Cottagers

Ed Malyon
Craven Cottage
Saturday 11 August 2018 16:57
Comments
Zaha iced the game with a late counter-attack goal that made it 2-0
Zaha iced the game with a late counter-attack goal that made it 2-0

Welcome to the Premier League. There has been £150m spent, a number of high-profile acquisitions and much confidence around Fulham in pre-season but that didn’t translate to points or goals as Crystal Palace came to town and ruined their opening-day party in a Premier League clash that was full of intrigue, a clash of styles and, ultimately, a warning to Fulham that this is how tough the top flight can be.

Blistering counter-attack goals from Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha in either half were the difference on the scoresheet after a game between two sides with far more differences than that.

There was a buzz of anticipation around Putney; the throngs of riverside drinkers contemplating the season ahead and the families walking through Bishop’s Park to the stadium whose children, dressed in the latest Fulham shirt, of course, could barely remember the last time this team was playing in the top flight. It was only 2014 but even since then the Premier League has evolved and kicked on, certainly in financial terms, and if you didn’t know that there was a real sense of expectancy around their return already then the matchday playlist inside Craven Cottage betrayed their excitement: ‘This is it’, ‘The time is now’ and ‘Baby I’m ready to go’ blaring out over the PA system before kick-off.

It was a clash of styles as Fulham hosted Palace

Coming up against a team with six new faces in the starting XI and a further three on the bench, Palace might have thought they could catch the Premier League newcomers a little off-guard but the first half saw the Cottagers hit the ground running, showing a continuation of the slick passing football that saw them swagger out of the Championship to get here in the first place.

Newly-furnished with a raft of a exciting new signings, it was to Slavisa Jokanovic’s credit that his side looked comfortable at this level and not at all like the rabble of strangers you might have feared. If the hosts were the passers then Palace were the dribblers, a team built to counter-attack and one who do so with regularity and peril.

Roy Hodgson’s side looked at their best last season when they were shredding teams on the break and that was how they eventually would go in front during a first period where Fulham had most of the ball and a significant territorial advantage.

Slavisa Jokanovic's side were taught a lesson on the counter 

Because for all Fulham’s strengths, their midfield was utterly incapable of dealing with Palace’s rampaging marauders as their own play broke down and the game became transitional. Zaha and Patrick Van Aanholt raided down the left, Townsend and Aaron Wan-Bissaka down the right, with Christian Benteke causing all sorts of problems through the middle.

For the first goal it was Townsend and Van Aanholt who were afforded too much time and the Dutchman slid Schlupp into the inside-left channel where he won the physical battle against Calum Chambers and thumped home into the roof of the net.

Palace going ahead only further cemented the pattern of the match as one where Fulham would dominate possession in an effort to carve out an opportunity and then the visitors would try to kill off the game on the counter, as they eventually did through Zaha.

Townsend and Zaha exchanged passes in their own half before passing to Benteke, who switched play for the impressive Wan-Bissaka. The 20-year-old full-back survived a punchy tackle from Aleksandar Mitrovic, cut inside another man and surged at the Fulham back line before weighting a perfect pass for Zaha, who rounded Fabri and tucked the ball home for 2-0.

It was another moment to forget for the new Fulham goalkeeper who is surely not long for the number 1 jersey after this performance and the deadline-day arrival of Sergio Rico from Sevilla. But it was another moment to remember for Zaha, who was nibbled and gnawed at all day by Fulham’s defenders but rose above it to prove once again that is this side’s talisman and one of the league’s most destructive forwards.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in