Romain Saiss equalised in the 85th minute as Wolves denied relegation-threatened Fulham a precious home victory in a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day.
Morocco midfielder Saiss bundled home at close range 11 minutes after Ryan Sessegnon had appeared to lift Claudio Ranieri’s side to within a point of safety.
They were instead forced to be satisfied with inching ahead of fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town after squandering what would have been a second successive clean sheet in a faltering Premier League campaign.
The Cottagers went agonisingly close to snatching back the lead at the death when Aleksandar Mitrovic scrambled an effort towards goal, but Ryan Bennett’s partial block enabled Conor Coady to clear off the line and earn Wolves a share of the spoils.
All square in an even contest. A good point for the Whites.
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) December 26, 2018
Though their appeals were muted, Nuno Espirito Santo’s men should have received an early penalty when Saiss nodded Joao Moutinho’s free-kick into Denis Odoi’s raised arm.
Mitrovic was proving a handful at the other end, threatening with a pair of headers and almost turning in Cyrus Christie’s shot across the face of goal.
Referee Andre Marriner waved away claims for a handball against Matt Doherty amid those chances before Rui Patricio prevented Mitrovic from punishing a panicked Wolves defence.
The visitors were more composed after the interval and did much of the probing leading up to Sessegnon’s 74th-minute strike, the substitute firing the loose ball a crowded penalty area following a free-kick.
But the hosts failed to hang on in their bid for a third league victory as Ivan Cavaleiro found space to slide a low cross in from the left that Saiss tapped home, before Coady came to his team’s rescue by clearing Serbia striker Mitrovic’s goal-bound finish from Sergio Rico’s long ball forward in the 90th minute.
What does it mean? Chances running out for Cottagers
Fulham looked to have taken a step forward in keeping their first clean sheet of the campaign against Newcastle United last time out, but this will be seen as a significant disappointment.
Though the opposition have proven themselves to be Premier League material, three points were there for the taking. They are now six matches without a win under Ranieri.
Saiss steps up as Neves watches on
Wolves boss Nuno surprisingly dropped Ruben Neves in favour of the promising Morgan Gibbs-White, but it was 28-year-old Saiss who seized the opportunity to shine.
His goal was reward for gambling on a late run into the box and capped a high-energy performance that featured a game-high 110 passes.
Schurrle fails to fire
Fulham brought Andre Schurrle to the club anticipating some key moments of quality from a World Cup winner, but the attacker has largely underwhelmed.
It was a similar story here as he faded into the background of the contest after half-time and gave Ranieri no choice but to withdraw him in the 67th minute.
Key Opta Facts
– Fulham have conceded in all but one of their last 23 Premier League fixtures.
– Wolves have lost just one of their last eight Premier League games in London (W3 D4).
– Wolves have scored 75 per cent of their Premier League goals in the second half of their games this season (15/20), the highest proportion in the competition.
– This was Wolves’ 100th league game played on Boxing Day, making them just the second side to play as many on the date (after West Brom).
– Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic mustered seven shots in the first half, the most of any player in the first 45 minutes of a Premier League game this season.
Fulham must target three points when they entertain relegation rivals Huddersfield Town on Saturday, while Wolves will need to be at their very best as they head to Tottenham.
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