Fulham 3-0 Preston North End: Whites clinch Premier League return
Fulham crushed Preston to seal their Premier League return as Aleksandar Mitrovic’s double took his season’s tally to 40 goals.
The Serbian striker netted twice in the first half, sandwiching an eye-catching strike by teenager Fabio Carvalho.
Mitrovic was denied a hat-trick by Preston goalkeeper Daniel Iversen – but it made no difference to the outcome as victory confirmed promotion for Marco Silva’s side.
Fulham could effectively secure the title as early as Saturday if they win at second-placed Bournemouth.
The Cottagers might have fallen behind early on, with Marek Rodak called into action to thwart Ched Evans and then tip Ben Whiteman’s long-range drive over the bar.
But any hint of nerves swiftly evaporated in the ninth minute as Joe Bryan won possession and burst down the left flank to set up Mitrovic, who slid the ball through Iversen’s legs.
Carvalho and Harrison Reed went close to extending the lead as the home side seized control, repeatedly slicing through Preston’s defence.
It was Carvalho who did eventually grab Fulham’s second in the 34th minute, rifling home on his left foot after Neeskens Kebano’s cross had deflected perfectly into his path.
Mitrovic made it 3-0 just before half-time, reaching the 40-goal mark after another incisive break along the left, with Harry Wilson providing the assist.
North End nearly reduced the deficit early in the second half as Rodak produced another fingertip save to foil Cameron Archer, palming his attempt on to the woodwork.
But there was to be no dramatic Preston comeback – nor a third goal for Mitrovic, who had two more attempts kept out by Iversen and was eventually substituted with a quarter of an hour remaining.
Although Neco Williams’ effort from distance whistled just over, Fulham had to be content with the three goals – and the win that wrapped up their third promotion in five years.
Fulham seal swift Premier League return
The clinical Cottagers have shot through the Championship like a bolt of lightning and look set to smash a number of records as they win promotion back to the top tier with four games to spare.
Marco Silva’s swashbuckling brand of fast transitions and quick passing has seen them score 98 goals so far.
They could still break Manchester City’s Championship second-tier record, since the launch of the Premier League in 1992, of 108 goals.
Silva’s men also wrote themselves into the history books in January when they scored 19 goals in three games and were the first English side in 88 years to score six or more goals in three consecutive games.
Serbian striker Mitrovic’s 40 goals – already another Championship record – have helped propel Fulham out of sight at the top of the table and all eyes will be on him at the start of next season to see if he can finally recreate his scintillating Championship form against the country’s top defences in the Premier League.
The west London club have been something of a yo-yo club in the past few seasons, with consecutive promotions and relegations to and from the Premier League every season since their 2017-18 play-off final victory against Aston Villa.
Emma Jones, BBC Radio London
When Marco Silva became the new Fulham manager, he knew he was taking on the job of leading the team straight back to the Premier League.
His first task was to rebuild a squad that had been heavily reliant on loans under Scott Parker in the top flight. But also to rebuild the confidence of players who will have felt they hadn’t performed as they’d hoped, or hadn’t been given the chance, during another relegation season.
New signing Harry Wilson made an instant impact with a goal on the opening day. While a 5-1 win in Fulham’s first away match at Huddersfield provided an early indication of just what the team might achieve. That big victory also included a first goal of many for Aleksandar Mitrovic and one from young star Fabio Carvalho, as he began to make headlines that are set to lead to a big move to Liverpool.
Wilson looks to have been the best of the new additions, with Silva ultimately relying on the old guard to get the results. And while there will be plenty of praise for Mitrovic, Fulham are far from a one-man team with ‘Captain America’ Tim Ream one of many players who has had an excellent season.
The questions though remain the same. What lessons have the club learnt from previous promotions to ensure they stay up this time?
Are the players who have got them up good enough to keep them up? And will any new additions be the right fit for the challenge ahead?
Fulham head coach Marco Silva:
“All season he (Mitrovic) has been exceptional. I have to manage his condition – you know how he can play with his energy when he is fresh.
“There was a lot of energy from the first minute. We had to get the job done tonight and we need to be proud of what we achieved.
“We delivered to the club and the fans who deserved this. I am proud of the players as this was the goal on the first day – automatic promotion.
“The season has been fantastic for the fans. Last season was really tough for all of them and we have done this for them.”
Preston manager Ryan Lowe told BBC Radio Lancashire:
“Congratulations to Fulham. I thought we could have scored in the first five minutes and then maybe the game changes a little bit.
“But you can’t give a team like Fulham the opportunities to score that we did – they’ll punish you and we found ourselves 3-0 down.
“You only have to look at the star man who scores the goals and that is the difference – they’ve got that quality.
“I thought we were a lot better second half, but ultimately we were outclassed in the first half.”
- 20N Williams
- 10CairneyBooked at 20mins
- 6ReedSubstituted forSeriat 70′minutes
- 28CarvalhoSubstituted forDe Cordova-Reidat 75′minutes
- 9MitrovicSubstituted forMuniz Carvalhoat 77′minutes
- 14De Cordova-Reid
- 19Muniz Carvalho
2van den Berg6Lindsay16Hughes
- 2van den Berg
- 4WhitemanBooked at 45mins
- 44PottsSubstituted forSinclairat 69′minutes
- 32EarlSubstituted forDiabyat 45′minutes
- 9EvansSubstituted forMaguireat 25′minutes
Match ends, Fulham 3, Preston North End 0.
Second Half ends, Fulham 3, Preston North End 0.
Attempt missed. Harry Wilson (Fulham) left footed shot from the right side of the box is too high. Assisted by Tom Cairney.
Attempt blocked. Rodrigo Muniz (Fulham) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Cairney.
Foul by Bobby De Cordova-Reid (Fulham).
Benjamin Whiteman (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Rodrigo Muniz (Fulham).
Bambo Diaby (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jean Michaël Seri (Fulham).
Bambo Diaby (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Bobby De Cordova-Reid (Fulham).
Benjamin Whiteman (Preston North End) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Rodrigo Muniz (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Bambo Diaby (Preston North End).
Marek Rodák (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Liam Lindsay (Preston North End).
Corner, Preston North End. Conceded by Rodrigo Muniz.
Attempt blocked. Sean Maguire (Preston North End) header from a difficult angle on the left is blocked. Assisted by Andrew Hughes with a cross.
Corner, Preston North End. Conceded by Joe Bryan.
Foul by Joe Bryan (Fulham).