It is a measure of Brighton’s progress under Graham Potter that they left Craven Cottage angry at themselves for not becoming the new Premier League leaders.
A win would have sent the Seagulls to the top for the first time in their history, despite falling victim to Fulham and, more importantly, to a monstrous man: Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Mitrovic scored his fifth goal in five games on his return to the Premier League, a push at the back post Fulham deserved for their game. Still not satisfied, he then made a change that few others in football could or would.
Aleksander Mitrovic celebrates scoring the first goal in Fulham’s 2-1 win over Brighton
In the last half-hour, as Fulham defended their 2-1 lead, Mitrovic ran back, held the ball up, won free-kicks and was an all-round nuisance for Brighton.
The 27-year-old Serb is unique in this respect. He wants to do the dirty work and that’s what makes him such a valuable asset to Marco Silva and Fulham this season.
Brighton knew this wasn’t their best performance. Far from it, but sometimes you have to give credit to the competition and Fulham deserved the three points.
That game saw referee Thomas Bramall, 32, make his Premier League debut and what you don’t want when you’re nervous is a certain Mr Mitrovic yelling in your face.
Marco Silva greets the Fulham fans at the Cottage after the Cottagers’ 2-1 win over Brighton
That became an issue in the first half when Fulham felt the rookie referee was lacking in fouls. You imagine that when Bramall tells his grandchildren about this bow one day, he will omit the fact that Craven Cottage serenaded him with chants like “You don’t know what you’re doing”.
That was a little tough to be honest as Bramall did his best to keep the game flowing. That included not falling for an early free-kick attempt from Andreas Pereira on the edge of the area as it turned out Moises Caicedo had no contact.
Although it was Brighton who would go ahead with a win, they started on the backfoot.
Fulham are highly ranked for open crosses in the Premier League and this tactic worried the visitors. A few crosses seemed made for a typical Mitrovic header, but the striker didn’t position himself in the right places.
Andreas Pereira (left) and Bobby Decordova-Reid beam as Fulham take a 2-0 lead
Mitrovic’s best chance of the first half came on a counterattack. He carried the ball forward well, although his tame shot saw the ball tricked into Robert Sanchez’s arms.
Then it was Brighton’s turn to try. Pascal Gross tested Bernd Leno with a low shot before a cross from Leandro Trossard found a free Solly March who banged his header wide of the left post. The power was there, but the accuracy wasn’t.
The cameras cut to Fulham manager Silva puffing out his cheeks.
In the 48th minute, Silva was beaming to make it 1-0, and who but Mitrovic made it possible? It started with Neeskens Kebano playing the ball at the far post. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a cross or an oblique shot, the Fulham striker was perfectly positioned this time to ensure the finish.
GAME FACTS AND RATINGS
Fulham (4-2-3-1): leno 6; Tete 6, Adarabioyo 6, Ries 6, Robinson 6; reed 6 (chalobah 90+1), palhinha 6; De Cordova-Reid 6.5, Pereira 6.5 (Cairney 78), Kebano 6.5; MITROVIC 7
Scorer: Mitrovic 48, Dunk 55 (og).
Booked: Robinson, Reed.
Managing Director: Marco Silva 6.5.
BRIGHTON (3-4-3): Sanchez 5.5; Veltman 5.5 (Lamptey 64, 6), Dunk 5, Webster 5.5; March 6, Caicedo 6 (Undav 79), Mac Allister 6, Estupinan 6 (Mitoma 63, 6); Gros 5.5, Trossard 5.5, Mwepu 5.5 (Welbeck 63, 6).
Scorer: Mac Allister (pen) 60.
Manager: Graham Potter 5.5.
Referee: Thomas Bramall 6.
Number of visitors: 22,224.
Mitrovic has scored five goals in five games. Watch out Erling Haaland, you have Golden Boot Company.
Things got better for Fulham in the 55th minute as they countered, Pereira crossed, Lewis Dunk put a foot out and scored a fateful own goal that caught Sanchez. Thanks also to Bramall as it was the referee’s advantage after a foul on Mitrovic under construction that allowed Fulham to make it 2-0.
Just as the hosts thought victory was confirmed, Brighton’s Pervis Estupinan fell in the penalty area. Play went on but VAR Paul Tierney soon intervened, prompting Bramall to visit his pitchside monitor. Cordova-Reid had kicked Estupinan in the calf and there was a penalty.
Alexis Mac Allister stepped forward and scored in the left corner to make it 2-1.
Brighton’s Alexis Mac Allister put Brighton back in the game with a penalty after the hour
It became an end-to-end competition. Brighton attacked, Fulham counter, flush, repeat. In the 70th minute, a flat save from Leno denied Trossard the equalizer for the visitors. In the 71st, Cordova-Reid missed the three for the hosts by missing his shot.
English managers were not lucky for Marco Silva. He had lost his last five Premier League games to the likes of Dean Smith, Eddie Howe, Chris Wilder, Sean Dyche and Potter.
Not this time. Not when Mitrovic is in that mood and wants that win.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-11161931/Fulham-2-1-Brighton-Cottagers-impressive-start-season-continues-win-Seagulls.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Fulham 2-1 Brighton: Cottager’s impressive start to the season continues with win over Seagulls