Aleksandar Mitrovic cancelled out Andre Gray’s early opener as Fulham fought back to draw 1-1 with Watford in the Premier League on Saturday.
Having lost their 100 per cent record with defeat to Manchester United last time out, the visitors appeared to be on course to return to winning ways after Gray found the net just 87 seconds into the early kick-off.
Watford were unfortunate not to lead by more during a dominant first-half performance, with referee Martin Atkinson waving away strong shouts for a penalty after Alfie Mawson’s ill-timed sliding challenge on Will Hughes.
However, Fulham improved after the break, their consistent pressure eventually rewarded when Mitrovic flicked home his fifth goal of the season from Luciano Vietto’s low cross.
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) September 22, 2018
For the second time in as many games Fulham conceded inside two minutes, Hughes ending a brief spell of pinball on the edge of the home side’s penalty area by teeing up Gray with a square pass.
The striker slotted the ball low beyond Marcus Bettinelli on that occasion but was unable to beat the goalkeeper when presented with another one-on-one opportunity later in the half set up by Mawson’s poorly judged header.
Fulham were also grateful to Ryan Sessegnon for inadvertently blocking Christian Kabasele’s on-target header when facing the wrong way, while Watford were also aggrieved by Atkinson’s decision to merely book Timothy Fosu-Mensah for an awful tackle on Troy Deeney.
Slavisa Jokanovic – up against the club he led to promotion in 2015, only to leave before taking charge in the top flight – saw an improved display from Fulham in the second half, eventually leading to an equaliser.
The talismanic Mitrovic made no mistake from close range when picked out by Vietto but was denied a winner at the death, Ben Foster acrobatically tipping the Serbia striker’s header against the woodwork.
What it means: Jekyll and Hyde sides entertain
Javi Gracia picked the same starting XI for a sixth successive league outing, showing faith in the players who started against United. His reward was an excellent first-half performance that deserved more than a one-goal advantage.
However, the script was flipped after the break. The high press from the Hornets disappeared as Fulham seized control, overcoming a shocking opening 45 minutes to make sure they avoided defeat in their 500th Premier League fixture.
Mitro still on fire
Are you watching, Rafa Benitez? Mitrovic’s tally of five goals is one more than Newcastle United’s entire squad have managed in the league prior to their clash with Crystal Palace.
Having failed to hit the target with a header early in the second half when meeting a cross from Fulham’s right, the frontman was in the ideal place to turn home Vietto’s centre from the opposite flank with 12 minutes remaining.
No case for Fulham’s defence
The Premier League’s most porous defence prior to kick-off only conceded once in the persistent rain yet looked capable of shipping plenty more throughout the opening half.
Mawson had a nightmare home debut, the centre-back – signed for a fee reported to be in the region of £15million from relegated Swansea City – picked up an unwanted yellow card to mark the occasion but somehow avoided giving away a spot-kick before being subbed at the interval. Do Fulham still have the receipt?
Key Opta stats:
17 – Since his debut for Fulham in Feb 2018, Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored more league goals across the top four tiers of English Football than any other player (17). Fire. pic.twitter.com/lXgAsRZs3H
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 22, 2018
– Watford became just the fifth team to start each of their first six games of a Premier League season with the same starting XI (also Leeds 92/93, Tottenham 94/95, Liverpool 96/97 and Aston Villa 08/09).
– Fulham have lost just one of their last 19 home league games, including play-offs (W14 D4).
– Watford are without a win on their last nine Premier League visits to London, with their draw against Fulham coming after eight consecutive defeats.
– Watford striker Andre Gray has netted four goals in his last three league games against Fulham.
– Gray’s strike for Watford, timed at one minute, 27 seconds was the quickest goal in the Premier League since March 10th 2018 (Kenedy for Newcastle v Southampton, 1:03)
– Gray’s goal was also Watford’s second quickest goal in the Premier League after Etienne Capoue against Leicester in November 2016 (32 seconds).
After an EFL Cup fixture at Millwall in midweek, Fulham’s next league outing sees them travel to Merseyside to take on Everton. Watford, meanwhile, have tricky games against Tottenham – in the cup – and Arsenal coming up.
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