Bruno Fernandes has become the most outspoken critic yet of the World Cup among those who will actually be playing in it. “It’s not exactly the time we want to be playing in the World Cup,” the Manchester United midfielder said after his side’s 2-1 win at Fulham.
“I think for everyone, players and fans, it’s not the best time. Kids will be at school, people will be working and the timings will not be the best for people to watch the games.”
Fernandes is a key part of the Portugal side that will begin its campaign against Ghana a week on Thursday. “We know the surroundings of the World Cup,” he went on, “what has been in the past few weeks, past few months, about the people that have died on the construction of the stadiums. We are not happy about that at all.
“We want football to be for everyone, everyone has to be included and involved in a World Cup because a World Cup is the world. It’s for everyone, it doesn’t matter who. But for a World Cup it’s more than football, it’s a party for fans, players, something that’s a joy to watch, should be done in a better way.”
United won the game with an injury-time winner from the 18-year-old Argentinian Alejandro Garnacho. “He has a lot of talent and his work rate together with the talent makes a big difference with us from the bench,” Fernandes said.
Even that, though, was overshadowed by the World Cup and what the United manager, Erik ten Hag, described as the “danger” of “four weeks, no games, lose focus”.
Marco Silva was frustrated to see his Fulham side concede a decisive injury-time goal in successive games, after Manchester City’s winner last weekend.
“It’s tough to take,” the manager said. “We deserved much more from the game. We have to learn from this type of moment.”
Paul Tierney blew his whistle, the ball dropped out of the sky and was grabbed by Tim Ream, and history was made as the Premier League, for the first time ever, broke for the World Cup. The final game before the six-week shutdown was an enjoyable romp that culminated with that most familiar of tropes, a last-minute Manchester United winner, slid in by the 18-year-old substitute Alejandro Garnacho.
A crisp evening by the Thames. The bells of All Saints welcoming the throng through Bishops Park. Smoke rising from the fast-food vans into the chill clear air. The trees an autumnal gold. In the morning, a gentle mist had hung over the river, perfect for the old maids to cycle through on their way to holy communion. It was the sort of November day that has made trips to Craven Cottage so evocative since it first became the home of Fulham in 1896. It certainly was not the sort of day to make you feel as though, a week less half an hour after kick-off, the World Cup would be getting under way.
Of all the issues raised by this World Cup, perhaps the least important is the way it has disrupted the rhythm of European seasons. There have even been suggestions that some teams this season may not be taking the Carabao Cup entirely seriously. And yet it has had an impact, as the number of players already ruled out of or in danger of missing out on the World Cup makes clear.
There has never before been a gap of fewer than 16 days between the Champions League/European Cup final and the start of the World Cup; for there to be less than seven days between the end of domestic seasons and the start of the tournament inevitably augments the sense of football as a remorseless treadmill, fixture after fixture following in endless, accelerating succession, and can only increase the issue of fatigue.
The result was a distinct last day of term feel about Fulham, of this somehow lacking the dread earnestness of most match days. Uniform guidelines were perhaps relaxed, some of the younger classes brought in games, there were squabbles in the staff-room over the one working video-recorder and the tape of the Tom Hanks film Big and nobody really bothered too much with the boring stuff, like defensive structure or playing the safe pass. The result was a very open and thoroughly engaging game that swept from end to end with exhausting intensity.
There was certainly no obvious sign of players holding back. Nor was there any suggestion that the absences of five players who could have major roles to play at the World Cup – Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphaël Varane, Antony and the suspended Diogo Dalot for United and Aleksandar Mitrovic for Fulham – were down to anything other than bona fide issues, but the shadows they left contributed to the air of vague abandon. Harry Maguire, lionheart of the England back three, at least should be fully rested, having spent the evening on the bench; he has played just 90 minutes of Premier League football in the past two months.
Yet this was a game of consequence. The win took United to within three points of fourth-placed Tottenham with a game in hand; the gulf to Champions League qualification looks manageable.
The absence of Ronaldo is of increasingly little concern to United. United have lost half the Premier League games he’s started this season, averaging just a point a game, as opposed to 2.2 per game without him. United’s opener was finely constructed, evidence of the sort of football Erik ten Hag is looking to instil – and the reason why he eschews Brazil’s first-choice holding midfield pair to deploy Christian Eriksen alongside Casemiro. The Brazilian dispossessed Tom Cairney after 14 minutes, Eriksen then setting Anthony Martial running before advancing to slide in Bruno Fernandes’s cross at the back post.
The player who was missed was Dalot, the combination of Willian and Antonee Robinson repeatedly troubling his stand-in Tyrell Malacia down the Fulham left. Sure enough, that was where the Fulham equaliser originated, the duo combining to lay in Cairney to cross for the United old boy Dan James, who had been on the pitch just three minutes, to turn in.
There was still almost half an hour plus injury time to play at that point and, for a time, until the introduction of Garnacho restored some thrust to the United attack, Fulham looked the likelier to score. But it was United who, in the third minute of three minutes added time, grabbed the winner, the Argentinian drifting in from the left, exchanging passes with Eriksen and nudging his finish past Bernd Leno.
And then, poof, it was gone, the excitement doused, the stands emptied, the floodlights turned off to make way for Fifa’s shameful folly in Qatar, not to be reignited until Boxing Day.
Craven Cottage’s Riverside Stand is some way off completion, the club’s official line being that it will be fully operational for the 2023-24 season, but it was for home fixtures such as Sunday’s against Manchester United that it was renovated.
The structure’s towering exoskeleton has been a feature of the Thames in south-west London since 2019. What the club’s owner, Shahid Khan, described, rather grandiosely, as a “real gamechanger for Fulham Football Club, our neighbourhood, and all of London” has become dotted with fans. Capacity has climbed close to 25,000. Supporters in the lower tier of the new stand have been joined by some in the wings of the upper tier, before that anticipated full launch. That many are paying £100 for the privilege of sitting there, OAPs paying full price, supporters under 17 at £70, amid a cost-of-living crisis caused unwelcome headlines.
The plan is that the extra revenue from corporate entertainment and that pricy matchday experience can help Fulham compete as a Premier League club, the Riverside plan being similar to the renovation of Anfield’s main stand that helped revive Liverpool’s bottom line. And while Khan’s ambitions do not stretch to the Olympian heights his Fenway Sports Group compatriots have reached before recently deciding to cash out at least a minor stake, the success of the venture relies on Fulham being in the Premier League.
So far, so good this season. Far ahead of expectations, in fact. It has been clear since the opening match of the club’s latest return to the top echelon, a 2-2 draw with Liverpool that had Jürgen Klopp’s men reeling in discomfort, that this season could be different. “We must not be too concerned about being called a ‘yo-yo’ club,” said Marco Silva in April. His team have played as if the anxiety of a relegation battle is not remotely their problem.
Fulham are ninth, behind Liverpool only on goal difference, and the fruits of Silva’s attacking, high-pressing approach are clear. The team might have been higher had Jordan Pickford not put up an excellent goalkeeping display in snatching a goalless draw for Everton a fortnight ago. Or had Darren England, the referee last weekend, not indulged Kevin De Bruyne’s theatrics and awarded a penalty after Antonee Robinson’s late challenge at Manchester City.
The champions were reeling at the Etihad, level at 1-1 with João Cancelo having been dismissed, and Pep Guardiola was forced to smash the emergency glass in bringing on Erling Haaland. Perhaps most tellingly, for those who choose to put Fulham’s mid-table position down to the goals of Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Serbian talisman had not made the trip to Manchester.
Clearly, his 10 goals have been hugely helpful; Silva has keyed into Mitrovic’s talents in the Premier League in a fashion his managers at Newcastle never could and Silva’s predecessor, Scott Parker, failed to during the 2020-21 relegation season. The supporting cast has played a huge part, too, without Fabio Carvalho, the young star of last season’s promotion campaign who was able to leave for a £5m tribunal fee to Liverpool.
Andreas Pereira has been a revelation, particularly to those who recall him as a diligent yet scratchy Manchester United player, adding genuine quality as an attacking midfielder. João Palhinha, a late developer in Portuguese football, is an adroit, aggressive, high-end holding player. Willian, whose belated arrival in the transfer window was greeted with bemusement, has shown off the talents that won hearts at Chelsea but little of the flakiness that made him an Arsenal bust.
“He is enjoying his football again,” said Silva of his veteran Brazilian. Much the same goes for a raft of players who struggled in Fulham’s recent doomed Premier League seasons. Harrison Reed’s zest in midfield makes him a real Cottage favourite. Until rupturing an achilles last week, Neeskens Kebano, with the club since 2016, had embodied Fulham’s adventure with his speed down the flanks. Tim Ream, at 35, and off to the World Cup with the United States, has been assured in central defence, ever the leader. Fans are enjoying life in the Premier League the most since the Roy Hodgson era ended after reaching the 2010 Europa League final.
Silva has had much to prove. After the draw with Everton, he reminded those journalists from Merseyside that his former club has not finished higher since than the eighth place in 2018-19 he delivered in his sole full season. A decent working relationship with Khan, and Khan’s son Tony, director of football operations, comes in contrast to the dysfunction he found at Goodison Park.
Beyond that Riverside Stand development, Craven Cottage retains its genteel, Tommy Trinder-tinged persona. The painted beams in the Archibald Leitch-designed Johnny Haynes Stand transport back to the analogue world of the 1960s but a different future beckons within Khan’s grand plans. Silva’s team embracing modernity with progressive, entertaining football is playing a full part in achieving that vision.
In a frantic ending Erling Haaland did what he does best, claiming the winner in added time from the spot to give the champions a classic fighting win despite playing nearly 65 minutes with 10 men.
The winner came after Kevin De Bruyne drew Antonee Robinson into a foul that led to the penalty: while the decision seemed marginal, this was the peerless Norwegian’s 23rd goal of the season, going in underneath Bernd Leno’s body.
Haaland, on as substitute after the hour, had earlier appeared to be City’s hero when heading in a De Bruyne cross on 75 minutes. But the No 9 was adjudged offside by the VAR – correctly – and Fulham escaped, though Robert Jones failed to have the same fortune regarding Pep Guardiola who, unhappy since before the interval, gave the fourth official a latest flea in his ear about some perceived injustice.
City had been irritable and dislocated since João Cancelo’s first-half sending off, though the defender can have no complaints at this and the penalty awarded by the referee, Darren England, which seemed to have City dropping points for the first time since losing at Liverpool last month. Guardiola’s disenchantment at how Cancelo barged Harry Wilson over in the area moved him to a scolding of the No 7 as the left-back wandered off, Andreas Pereira’s successful kick cancelling out Julián Álvarez’s earlier score.
This all came before the break. With 27 minutes remaining and despite being the man down, Guardiola chased victory by bringing on Haaland and Phil Foden. From this juncture his side dominated: before the disallowed goal Haaland missed a gilded chance when Ilkay Gundogan cushioned a header to him, the Norwegian’s right foot connecting with air only.
The hosts, via Gundogan and De Bruyne, continued to poke the ball around Fulham in search of the winner – Haaland a particular menace. De Bruyne skipped down the left and lifted a delivery into the sky that had the No 9 launching himself, before Foden did the same when Gundogan lobbed the ball at him: each time City were inches away.
But deep into the five added minutes and appearing to rue the dismissal that gave Marco Silva’s visitors a lifeline, Haaland struck.
The goal just never came. Fulham were full of speed and invention but lacked the finishing touch to get past a busy but commanding Jordan Pickford. Everton, with Conor Coady organising, often handing out NFL-style congratulations to colleagues after clearances and blocks, doggedly held their line. They are such sterner opposition under Frank Lampard, their goals against record belonging in the top echelon. Scoring is more problematic; Dominic Calvert-Lewin was ever more in isolation as his 90 minutes dragged on.
Marco Silva spent 18 forgettable months at Everton, and despite reasonable grounds to consider himself a victim of a club in permanent flux, was forced to rebuild his reputation at Fulham. His Everton were rarely so enterprising. A similar reinvention process goes for Lampard at Everton. He has bought into being an Evertonian in a manner his Portuguese predecessor never managed. At full time the away contingent appeared happy enough with the latest demonstration of “dogs of war” values as Lampard hailed a “work, resilience and mindset we really didn’t have last year”.
“It’s difficult to believe,” said Silva, after his first game against his former employers. “We did almost everything well. Everton played a direct game, we knew that, and they created some moments but we are always on the front foot. Jordan Pickford and their defenders deserve credit, they block everything but we did everything to win.”
The England goalkeeper, who was man of the match, was far happier. “I graft really hard and I like putting on performances,” said Pickford. “The World Cup is around the corner so I’ll keep my head focused.”
Lampard said: “Keepers can make or break you. When he plays like that he wins you points.” Pickford had lifted Everton to mid-table respectability, though they are still just four points above the bottom three. Fulham’s unlikely push for European football next season had meanwhile stalled.
Calvert-Lewin probably needed a goal to boost an outside chance of joining Pickford in Qatar, particularly with Gareth Southgate watching Callum Wilson scoring twice for Newcastle. Everton’s No 9, starting two games in a row for the first time since May, probably relies on others to fall by the wayside. After a bright start, he betrayed some rustiness, caught offside in a rare second-half Everton attack. At least his injury curse did not return. Chasing down Demarai Gray’s low cross, he smashed his shoulder into the post but pronounced himself fine to continue.
In the first half, Everton played their full part in some end-to-end thrills amid unseasonably warm autumnal temperatures. Things occasionally got heated. The opposing No 9, Aleksandar Mitrovic, was lucky to escape with no more than a booking for a stamp on Idrissa Gueye, a decision that had Lampard baying for a video review. “I think he knew,” said Everton’s manager. “I was really surprised we didn’t get given it.”
The Serb had earlier vaulted Coady and crumpled heavily. Here was some form of retribution, and a yellow did not stop Mitrovic continuing his running battle with the ever game Coady. Tim Ream heading wide before James Tarkowski headed straight at Bernd Leno from a corner was the last flicker of a fine first 45. The second began with a penalty claim, waved away by John Brooks, the referee. Willian was falling to the floor before Gueye rapped his ankle.
As Fulham hunted a winner, Mitrovic had multiple chances, none of them quite falling right. A blazing over of Andreas Pereira’s cross caused an anguished howl towards the football gods, as did a final-seconds chance, blasted over on the turn.
“Mitro will score next time,” reassured his manager but two points had been surrendered to Pickford, Coady et al.
Jesse Marsch has described Leeds United’s travails as “painful” and said he must “stop the bleeding” as his position came under increased scrutiny following defeat against Fulham on Sunday.
Although the Elland Road board approached the game with an apparent resolve to offer their American manager time to put things right, the club are now in the Premier League relegation zone after four successive defeats.
Leeds have gone eight matches without a win but Marsch, who replaced Marcelo Bielsa at the club last spring, made it clear he believes he retains the support of his directors following talks with the hierarchy.
“The board and I are unified completely,” replied a manager subjected to loud boos and chants of “sacked in the morning” at the final whistle when he was asked if he expected to still be in charge for the trip to Liverpool next weekend.
“We’ve had clear discussions that we’re in this together. I understand the frustration from the fans. We’re equally frustrated but we’re together. We’re unified. The players have been great, too. I know it hasn’t been easy for them or us but we believe in them; I just have to find ways to help them get better.
“It’s painful right now and I take responsibility. I have to find a way to put us on the right path and stop the bleeding. We have to do everything we can to try to figure out how to get the win.”
Marsch believes restoring confidence to be among his principal tasks. “It’s going to be about discipline, confidence and belief. We’re not converting chances in our good moments but we mustn’t stop believing. We have to stay strong and stay together. In our good moments we can be quite good, we can be aggressive and play attractive football with intensity and power.
“But, in our weak moments we look naive and vulnerable and are too weak defensively. I take responsibility. I have to find solutions, get momentum and kickstart our season.”
For the moment at least, he does not want to alter tactics or philosophy. “If we were getting killed in matches we’d have more to worry about but it’s not like that. We’re creating some good chances – and I believe things can change quickly.
“Today’s game was in the balance but Fulham are a team with confidence and it showed. Part of the problem is we’re so anxious to get forward so quickly the game starts to open up and we struggle with transitions.”
Marco Silva was considerably happier after Fulham rose to seventh, with their Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic scoring his ninth goal in 11 league matches. “We were the best team, we deserved to win,” said the manager, who revealed Mitrovic is carrying a slight ankle injury. “We’ve shown we can cope with the pressure – and Mitro is a top player. He’s brilliant. He’s a really, really important player, and there’s much more to come from him.”
As recently as Friday, the message from the Leeds United boardroom was that the club’s directors were determined to keep faith with Jesse Marsch but that resolve could be about to be tested.
Marsch’s side suffered a fourth straight Premier League defeat here, extending their winless run to eight games and leaving them stuck in the bottom three.
Small wonder the Leeds manager had described Sunday’s visit from Marco Silva’s Fulham as a “big, big game”, adding that his players were “motivated and angry” following last Thursday’s 2-0 defeat at Leicester. “We want to put things right,” he said.
Although the afternoon ended with a mass exodus of home fans before the final whistle as Fulham headed to seventh place in the table, it certainly looked as if Leeds were on something of a mission as they began at characteristically high tempo but the first real chance fell to Fulham. When Antonee Robinson crossed from the left, Aleksandar Mitrovic flicked on and Harrison Reed shot right footed, leaving Marc Roca to block on the line before Robin Koch defied the hovering Mitrovic by scrambling the ball to safety.
Then, just as the first murmurs of anxiety and mutterings of discontent began rippling around Elland Road, Leeds scored. Brenden Aaronson played Jack Harrison in and his right wing cross-shot struck Tim Ream’s leg, sending the ball arcing upwards to the point where Rodrigo was able to direct a header beyond Bernd Leno.
Marsch had spent much of the game standing in his trademark alpha male, legs planted wide apart, touchline stance but, most un-typically, the American did not celebrate that opener. Instead he stood impassively, suggesting this was not quite the right moment to jump for joy with characteristically extravagant abandon.
Such circumspection looked wise once Mitrovic equalised. The Serbia striker’s ninth Premier League goal in 11 games arrived after he sneaked in front of Luke Ayling to connect with Andreas Pereira’s corner and head Fulham level.
The look on Illan Meslier’s face suggested that the Leeds goalkeeper thought he should have saved it but the Frenchman subsequently proved more than equal to the danger when Pereira shot straight at him after being put clean through by Willian’s clever counter-attacking pass.
Marsch’s side were ceding control of a midfield in which 20-year-old Sam Greenwood, a former striker, had been drafted into an anchoring role in place of the injured Tyler Adams and the general mood turned correspondingly fractious.
Perhaps responding to the heat generated by both a series of niggling on-pitch altercations and the increasingly edgy home support, Silva removed his coat, revealing a smartly understated black polo neck jumper beneath.
Fulham’s manager must have had reason for quiet satisfaction as Leeds lost a further degree of discipline with Liam Cooper booked for an unnecessary foul on Pereira and sporadic boos greeted the half-time whistle.
It would surely have been worse for Marsch had Pereira scored when one on one against Meslier but the Leeds manager had more than enough to worry about at the end of a half in which Leno had barely been exerted and only Luis Sinisterra consistently troubled Silva’s defence.
There was a distinct lack of inventive attacking movement on the home side’s part and, shortly after the hour mark, Marsch endeavoured to correct it by introducing Patrick Bamford in place of Rodrigo.
Before Bamford had time to make an impact Fulham took the lead. This time, another Pereira corner was only partially cleared and the ball ended up falling kindly for Pereira to cross in the direction of the entirely unmarked Bobby De Cordova-Reid. Making the very best of such defensive generosity he duly headed past Meslier, leaving Marsch standing with hands on hips as he stared grimly at a screen in his dug-out presumably highlighting his rearguard’s failure to track De Cordova-Reid.
Fulham’s third goal, slid in left footed by Willian after Reed’s deconstruction of the Leeds backline, proved the cue for a mass, 83rd minute, exit of home fans accompanied by a soundtrack of boos. By now the, albeit half-hearted, early second half choruses of “Marching on Together” seemed to belong to a different era.
Although Crysencio Summerville and Joe Gelhardt, two second half substitutes, combined for Summerville to reduce the deficit in the 90th minute it was too little too late for Leeds and Marsch.
Steven Gerrard has parted company with Aston Villa following the club’s disappointing start to the league season which has left them precariously placed fourth from bottom in the Premier League.
The club announced his departure shortly after a 3-0 defeat at Fulham, their sixth league loss of the season in 11 games in which they have only scored seven goals, the joint-second worst tally in England’s top tier.
“Aston Villa Football Club can confirm that Head Coach Steven Gerrard has left the club with immediate effect.” A club spokesman said: ‘We would like to thank Steven for his hard work and commitment and wish him well for the future.’”
He was appointed in November 2021, replacing Dean Smith, and oversaw the squad in recovering from a poor start to a 14th-placed finish, which it was hoped he could improve on this season.
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a second-half equaliser as Fulham twice came from behind to secure a point in a 2-2 Premier League draw against Bournemouth.
The 28-year-old scored from the penalty spot – his first goal for Marco Silva’s side since early September – to take his tally for the season to seven and earn his side a deserved point. Bournemouth had taken the lead through Dominic Solanke with the first attack of the match, before Fulham levelled through Issa Diop.
The visitors then retook the lead in the first half through Jefferson Lerma as the hosts struggled to contain Gary O’Neil’s side’s counter-attacking threat. Fulham grew into the game and had all the possession and chances in the final 20 minutes, but were unable to break through the Bournemouth defence for a third time.
With their first attack of the match, the visitors took the lead at Craven Cottage, with Solanke firing his side into the lead. He was played in by a Philip Billing cut-back after Fulham were unable to deal with the move, which started in the visitors’ half.
Fulham found their footing in the game almost immediately and put the pressure back on Bournemouth, with chances going wide from Neeskens Kebano and Andreas Pereira. In the 22nd minute, they found a way through the Bournemouth defence with Diop rewarding Silva for his selection in the starting line-up. The defender beat his marker to the ball to head home from a Pereira corner and level the match on his 100th Premier League start, and his first home start for Fulham. The score did not remain level for long, however, with Lerma restoring the visitors’ advantage before the half-hour mark.
The ball was played to an unmarked Lerma on the edge of the box by Solanke and he made no mistake, slotting the ball past Bernd Leno. The Fulham goalkeeper had to be alert just before half-time to make a double save to deny Bournemouth again, first from a Lerma header then from Adam Smith.
Mitrovic scored Fulham’s second equaliser, in the 52nd minute, from the penalty spot. The Serbia striker, who had been dealing with injury issues ahead of the match and was assessed late on Friday, was awarded the spot kick after being brought down by Lerma. The Fulham number nine then sent Neto the wrong way to score Fulham’s 10th home goal of the season, one more than the complete 2020-21 season at Craven Cottage.
Leno had to make a good low save in the second half to deny Solanke with both sides pushing for a winner. Harry Wilson, making his first appearance at Craven Cottage this season, had a chance to score late in the game, but Neto was just able to get there ahead of the Wales international. In the end, the spoils were shared.