Fulham 2 – 1 So’ton

Joao Palhinha’s late header saw Fulham edge Southampton 2-1 at Craven Cottage as Nathan Jones’ side remained rooted to the foot of the Premier League.

The hosts led at the break through James Ward-Prowse’s unfortunate own goal, only for the Southampton captain to make amends by deservedly bringing his team level with a stunning long-range free-kick.

Joao Palhinha celebrates with team-mates after putting Fulham 2-1 up
Joao Palhinha celebrates after scoring Fulham’s winner late on

However, just as it seemed as though Jones was about to earn his first point in charge of his new club, up popped Palhinha to break the visitors’ hearts and keep them bottom, while the Cottagers move up to seventh place in the table.

Player ratings

Fulham: Leno (7), Robinson (7), Ream (7), Diop (6), Tete (7), De Cordova-Reid (6), Reed (6), Palhinha (9), Pereira (7), Willian ( 7), Mitrovic (6)

Subs: Adarabioyo (6), Cairney (7) James (6)

Southampton: Bazunu (6), Walker-Peters (6), Lyanco (5), Salisu (6), Bella-Kotchap (7), Maitland-Niles (6), Edozie (8), Ward-Prowse (7), Elyounouss ( 6)i, Aribo, (6) Adams (7)

Subs: A Armstrong (6), Perraud (6), S Armstrong (6), Mara (6), Lavia (6)

Man of the match: João Palhinha

How Fulham struck late to break Saints hearts

On a day when the Fulham faithful – including one-time manager Roy Hodgson – paid tribute to both Pele (who played a friendly with Santos at Craven Cottage in 1973) and their former World Cup-winning full-back George Cohen, who sadly died just before Christmas, with a rousing minute’s applause, their side left it late to earn all three points against a dogged Saints outfit.

Fulham's Andreas Pereira scores their side's first goal of the game
Fulham’s Andreas Pereira scores their side’s first goal of the game

In fact, the visitors were unfortunate to find themselves trailing at half-time after first spurning a great opportunity to take the lead, only for Bernd Leno to deny Che Adams in a one-on-one, before then falling behind in bizarre circumstances.

Willian’s clever, floated corner from the left found Andreas Pereira unmarked on the edge of the box, although his wild strike was going nowhere near the goal – until deflected into his own net by the outstretched leg of Ward-Prowse.

News team

Fulham top scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic was passed fit to face Southampton despite carrying a foot injury. The Cottagers were unchanged from the 3-0 win at Crystal Palace.

Saints made three changes, with Joe Aribo, Armel Bella-Kotchap and Ainsley Maitland-Niles starting.

The Saints captain made up for that, however, by leveling matters 11 minutes after the break in now customary style as Fulham gave away a free-kick some 30 yards from goal, with predictable consequences.

Everyone in the ground knew what was about to happen, including Leno, who dived full length to his left but was still left clutching at thin air as the midfielder’s beautifully struck set play sailed into the top right-hand corner.

Fulham's Willian controls the ball under pressure from Southampton's Lyanco
Fulham’s Willian controls the ball under pressure from Southampton’s Lyanco

Both sides had chances to win it thereafter, but it was the hosts who took the points when Kenny Tete flicked on a corner for Palhinha to nod in at the far post and there was even time for top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic to see his injury- time penalty saved by Gavin Bazunu.

What the managers said…

Fulham boss Marco Silva:

“It’s a big three points for us from a tough match,” he said. “We expected a tough match, we know their capacity, they have good players who can punish you.

“But we have finished an amazing 2022 for us. A year that has been special for us and our fans. I believe we deserved the three points, even if it wasn’t our best performance. It was our moment to have a late goal to decide the game.”

Fulham will start the year in the top eight, but Silva played down any raised expectations.

“We have to be realistic and I am,” he added. “We are an ambitious club, but we know our reality. We have to keep our feet on the ground. It’s realistic to fight to remain in the Premier League.

“We have 25 points which is a good achievement from ourselves. We showed we are growing as a team and a club as well.”

Southampton boss Nathan Jones:

“To have that level of performance and to come out with nothing is very frustrating,” he said.

“We showed at times we can be a good team, but we can’t keep conceding goals if we want to pick up points. Today was a much-improved performance level.

“We have to defend our box and there’s lessons to be learned. There’s a good side in there, but at the minute we’re not giving ourselves a chance.

“There’s a naivety to our defending which is costing us games. I’m really pleased with the level of performance but absolutely devastated at the manner we conceded.”

FPL Stats: Fulham vs Southampton

Goals Palhinha, Ward-Prowse
Assists Tete, Perreira, Adams
Bonus points 3 – Palhinha (36); 2 – Ward-Prowse (26); 1 – Bazunu (23)

Signs looking promising for Silva’s Fulham – Opta stats

  • Fulham have 25 points from their 17 Premier League games so far this season (W7 D4 L6), the fewest number of matches they’ve taken to gain as many points since 2009-10 (also 17).
  • Fulham have won consecutive Premier League matches for the second time this season, last doing so on more occasions in a single campaign in 2011-12 (3).
  • Southampton are winless in their last 12 final league games of the calendar year (D6 L6), since beating Huddersfield 4-1 in 2010.
  • 35% of James Ward-Prowse’s Premier League goals have been scored via a direct free kick (15/43) – the highest share of any player with 30+ goals in the competition’s history.
  • Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse became the fifth player to score an own goal and a direct free kick in a single Premier League game and the first since Gareth Bale for Spurs vs Liverpool in November 2012.
  • No team have conceded more own goals than Southampton (3) in the Premier League this season, while only Brighton and Liverpool (4 each) have benefited from more such goals than Fulham in 2022-23 (3).

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We take a look at some of James Ward-Prowse’s best free kicks in the Premier League

What’s next?

Fulham travel to Leicester City on Tuesday (7.45pm), while Southampton host fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest on Wednesday (7.30pm) in a huge relegation six pointer.

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