Match ends, Fulham 2, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Fulham secured their first Premier League win of the season as they beat West Brom to move out of the bottom three.
Bobby Decordova-Reid headed Scott Parker’s side ahead from close range after Aleksandar Mitrovic’s cushioned header had set him up.
The hosts doubled their lead four minutes later and Mitrovic was again involved as he laid the ball off for Ola Aina, who struck spectacularly from 20 yards out.
The Cottagers came close to scoring a third but both Tom Cairney and Decordova-Reid had efforts cleared off the goalline within seconds of each other.
West Brom hit the crossbar through Conor Townsend’s misjudged cross when it was goalless, but Slaven Bilic’s side remain without a league win in 2020-21 and replace Fulham in the relegation zone.
No Fulham apology needed this time
This match was between two of the sides who had earned promotion from the Championship in 2019-20, West Brom coming second behind champions Leeds, before Fulham beat west London rivals Brentford in the Wembley play-off final.
But both have found life at the top level much tougher, with Fulham only picking up one point from their opening six games, while West Brom had drawn three and lost three.
The visitors almost took a fortunate third-minute lead when Townsend’s cross nearly caught out home goalkeeper Alphonse Areola but bounced off the woodwork. However, the hosts then became the better side with the lively Ademola Lookman shooting wide from 20 yards out.
Fulham’s opening goal came in the 26th minute as Antonee Robinson’s left-wing cross was headed back into the danger zone by the impressive Mitrovic and Decordova-Reid converted for his third goal of the season in all competitions.
It only took the home side four minutes to move 2-0 in front. Aina started the move on the right flank, he linked up with Cordova-Reid and played the ball into the feet of Mitrovic, who, with his back to goal, laid the ball back into Aina’s path and he struck a beautiful effort into the top corner for a spectacular first Premier League goal.
Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa could have even made it 3-0 before the break as he collected the ball following a fine run from captain Cairney but could only shoot at West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
Fulham had been on a run of four away matches since losing 3-0 at home to Aston Villa, after which co-owner Tony Khan apologised to the club’s fans, but their supporters would have been much happier after this showing.
West Brom need to quickly improve
West Brom boss Bilic would have targeted this match as one where three points were possible, but, despite having more possession, will be frustrated with the performance of his players.
The Baggies have now conceded a league-high 16 goals and it was poor marking for Fulham’s first as Mitrovic then Decordova-Reid were able to head the ball unchallenged, although West Brom could have done little about Aina’s strike for 2-0.
Karlan Grant should have pulled a goal back at the end of the first half, shooting wide from the edge of the penalty area, as the Baggies went the opening 45 minutes without a shot on target.
Bilic brought on Romaine Sawyers, Callum Robinson and Matt Phillips, with captain Jake Livermore one of those replaced, in an attempt to change the game in the second half, but they were unable to make a difference and it was a comfortable night for Areola in the home goal.
This is West Brom’s first season in the top flight since 2017-18, but Bilic will be looking for an instant improvement all over the field if they are to avoid being in a relegation battle for the rest of this campaign.
Man of the match – Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham)
West Brom’s worst start in 35 years – the stats
- Fulham are unbeaten in their last 10 league meetings with West Brom (won four, drew six) since a 2-1 loss in the Premier League in October 2010.
- West Brom have not won away at Fulham in the league since October 1967 (2-1), drawing seven and losing 10 of their 17 visits since then.
- Fulham have picked up their first victory and clean sheet in the Premier League since April 2019 against Cardiff (1-0), ending their eight-game winless run in the top flight.
- With just three points from their opening seven Premier League games this season (drew three, lost four), West Brom have made their worst start to a league campaign since 1985-86 (one point), failing to win any of their opening seven games for the first time since 2004-05.
- On his 50th league appearance for Fulham (including play-offs), Bobby Decordova-Reid netted Fulham’s opener – he has scored two goals in his last five league games for the Cottagers, as many as in his previous 25.
- Fulham’s Ola Aina netted his first ever goal in English League football in what was his 51st appearance across spells with Chelsea, Hull and Fulham.
- Aleksandar Mitrovic has been directly involved in 57% of Fulham’s Premier League goals this season (four of seven – two goals, two assists).
‘The work rate was nowhere near good enough’ – what they said
Fulham manager Scott Parker: “Of course there is relief because we had not won a game. We have won but along the journey there are going to be many bumps.
“There has been a narrative around us because of the money we spent last time. But there has been a single-mindedness about us this season. Defeats are going to happen but they can’t bury us.
“The noise surrounds everyone in this league. My message is very different: Try not to let the noise reach the players. Wins breed a bit of confidence – you need wins to get that uplift.
“We definitely got what we deserved. We are definitely maturing and definitely improving. We got a result and it is brilliant but we have to keep moving forward.”
Fulham’s Ola Aina told Sky Sports: “I’m happy to score my first Premier League goal. It was vital and I’m just happy I was able to help the team to get a lead that we could build on and try to be comfortable.
“It was a very important win for the club. It has been a difficult start to the season. We needed this to build momentum and I’m hoping that’s what we can do going on.”
West Brom boss Slaven Bilic told BBC Sport: “The lads have been good in training but we only played for 25 minutes.
“They were better than us in everything, one v one, two v two, passing the ball, aggression and commitment, everything really and I’m extremely disappointed – we can’t play like this.
“We have to be what we were in the last couple of games. You lose a bit of commitment when you see that the opponent is stronger than you. They were better and I’m really disappointed.
“We need to be much better in everything. It all starts with the work-rate, it was nowhere near good enough. We didn’t hurt them enough, it was very slow, waiting for something to happen, that’s why we couldn’t do anything.
“It’s worrying – not the points or position, but the performance. Everything starts with the work rate, commitment, dedication and we simply didn’t match them and have to work much, much harder.
“We don’t have the most quality. If we work harder, we will have a chance in many games.”
Fulham have a London derby at West Ham on Saturday, 7 November (20:00 GMT), before West Brom play Tottenham at home the following day (12:00 GMT).
West Bromwich Albion
- 29Zambo Anguissa
- 18LeminaSubstituted forReedat 45′minutesBooked at 83mins
- 14De Cordova-ReidBooked at 55minsSubstituted forCavaleiroat 85′minutes
- 19LookmanBooked at 57minsSubstituted forBryanat 90′minutes
- 17KrovinovicSubstituted forPhillipsat 70′minutes
- 12Costa PereiraSubstituted forRobinsonat 56′minutes
- 8LivermoreSubstituted forSawyersat 56′minutesBooked at 69mins
- 18GallagherBooked at 47mins
Second Half ends, Fulham 2, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Conor Gallagher (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Fulham).
Conor Gallagher (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Ivan Cavaleiro (Fulham).
Corner, West Bromwich Albion. Conceded by Tosin Adarabioyo.
Substitution, Fulham. Joe Bryan replaces Ademola Lookman.
Attempt missed. Conor Townsend (West Bromwich Albion) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Matt Phillips with a cross.
Grady Diangana (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Fulham).
Substitution, Fulham. Ivan Cavaleiro replaces Bobby De Cordova-Reid.
Corner, Fulham. Conceded by Darnell Furlong.
Attempt blocked. Ademola Lookman (Fulham) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Harrison Reed.
Harrison Reed (Fulham) is shown the yellow card.
Foul by Romaine Sawyers (West Bromwich Albion).
André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Fulham) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
VAR Decision: No Penalty Fulham.
Conor Townsend (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham).