Fulham 0-1 Nottingham Forest: Reds boost automatic promotion hopes
Nottingham Forest denied Fulham the chance to claim the Championship title with a victory at Craven Cottage that boosts the Reds’ hopes of earning automatic promotion to the Premier League.
Forest’s triumph, coupled with Bournemouth’s draw at Swansea, means Steve Cooper’s side could finish in the top two and end a 23-year top-flight absence if they win their three remaining games – which includes a trip to the second-placed Cherries next Tuesday.
A gifted first-half goal, determinedly poked home by Philip Zinckernagel after a defensive mix-up between Tim Ream and goalkeeper Marek Rodak, ensured the East Midlands club left west London with the decisive three points.
Brice Samba crucially denied Fabio Carvalho an equaliser moments after the visitors snatched the lead.
The Reds goalkeeper made a fine diving save to again foil the Portuguese forward in the second half after Championship player of the season Aleksandar Mitrovic headed over from close range and Sam Surridge was kept out by Rodak at the other end.
Fulham, who controlled 75% possession and had 20 shots against the in-form Forest, need only two points from their final two matches to clinch the title.
The meeting at Craven Cottage between a side whose top-flight status is assured and one whose automatic promotion aspirations remain alive, had the feel of Premier League dress rehearsal.
When the club’s worst start to a season for over a century left Forest with just one point from seven games and 15 points adrift of Fulham in mid-September, any notion the East Midland’s side could go on to feature in the promotion race alongside the Whites would have seemed far-fetched.
The win in west London moved Forest to third and earned them a play-off spot at the very least.
With Forest three points adrift of the Cherries, and equal on goal difference, both are capable of going straight up.
A meeting of the division’s two best attacking teams promised much, and delivered in a highly entertaining game of attacking football despite the lack of goals.
Jack Colback tested Rodak with a swerving effort and Brennan Johnson – Forest’s 20-year-old forward who was named as the Championship’s young player of the year two days earlier – flashed an effort across goal before Zinckernagel put the Reds ahead.
Ream’s decision to let a pass from Surridge roll beyond him proved costly, with Rodak then flailing in his effort to claim possession as Zinckernagel lunged at the ball to divert it into the net.
Mitrovic, who is just two goals short of breaking Guy Whittingham’s post-war second-tier record of 42 goals in a season, twice headed off target before the break.
After the interval, he again failed to find the back of the net with a nodded effort, with a crucial touch from Samba on the cross from Neco Williams enough to put the Serbia international off.
A string of fine saves at either end ensured it ended 1-0, with Forest spoiling Fulham’s title party with a result that intensifies the race for promotion.
‘Forest showed heart and soul’ – reaction
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper:
“It’s a brilliant win in the toughest game of the season – I’m sure Fulham will be champions.
“We attacked the game from the start and forced them into a mistake.
“Fulham had more of the ball, which is not what I normally like but I will accept it as we made as many chances as they did.
“It was a case of doing everything right in terms of defending. We showed heart and soul with blocks to keep the ball out of our net.”
Fulham manager Marco Silva:
“It wasn’t a good game to watch. The players wanted to get the job done tonight but we didn’t perform at our best level at all.
“But the pressure of completion is the best pressure to have. We have to learn from this.
“At certain moments we didn’t do the basics. We had to control the game in our way and in the first half we didn’t do that.”
- 20N WilliamsSubstituted forTeteat 77′minutes
- 23BryanSubstituted forMuniz Carvalhoat 77′minutes
- 6ReedBooked at 18minsSubstituted forCairneyat 58′minutes
- 14De Cordova-Reid
- 9MitrovicBooked at 90mins
- 19Muniz Carvalho
- 27S Cook
- 8ColbackSubstituted forLaryeaat 74′minutes
- 11ZinckernagelBooked at 28minsSubstituted forLolleyat 67′minutes
- 16SurridgeSubstituted forRibeiro Diasat 73′minutes
- 18Ribeiro Dias
- 19Costa Silva
- Josh Smith
Match ends, Fulham 0, Nottingham Forest 1.
Second Half ends, Fulham 0, Nottingham Forest 1.
Attempt missed. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) right footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Fabio Carvalho with a headed pass.
Attempt saved. Jean Michaël Seri (Fulham) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Tosin Adarabioyo (Fulham) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Harry Wilson following a set piece situation.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Steve Cook (Nottingham Forest).
Attempt blocked. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jean Michaël Seri.
Attempt saved. Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Cafú.
Attempt saved. Harry Wilson (Fulham) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Jean Michaël Seri.
Attempt blocked. Tom Cairney (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Fabio Carvalho.
Foul by Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham).
Joe Worrall (Nottingham Forest) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Tim Ream (Fulham) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right following a set piece situation.
Bobby De Cordova-Reid (Fulham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Djed Spence (Nottingham Forest).
Offside, Nottingham Forest. Joe Lolley tries a through ball, but Scott McKenna is caught offside.
Corner, Nottingham Forest. Conceded by Tosin Adarabioyo.
Attempt blocked. Brennan Johnson (Nottingham Forest) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.