Fulham suffered a 2-0 defeat against Southampton on Wednesday evening at St. Mary’s Stadium.
First half goals from Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse gave the hosts a comfortable cushion heading into the break and the second half played out without incident to ensure the three points remained on the south coast.
Claudio Ranieri made two changes from the side that faced West Ham United four nights ago at the London Stadium. Ryan Sessegnon was moved to the bench while the injured Jean Michaël Seri also dropped out, André-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Kevin McDonald came in to start. With the changes the side reverted to a narrower diamond formation, with McDonald anchoring a midfield of Tom Cairney, Calum Chambers and Anguissa.
The travelling Fulham support were in fine voice as the referee got the match underway at a tense St. Mary’s Stadium. After a nervy opening five minutes the hosts started to grow into the match. Nathan Redmond looked lively down the left wing and after cutting in from his flank he fired an early sighter which went over the bar.
In the 17th minute the Whites produced a composed and patient build-up to slowly and methodically to carve out a half chance. After working the ball neatly along the back line, Tim Ream chipped a nice ball into the channel for Aleksandar Mitrović. The powerful striker held the ball up expertly and fed a pass quickly back into the feet of Cairney. With a sequence of three quick flicks the ball eventually worked its way to Chambers on the edge of the box. His shot was deflected behind and the score remained level.
The stalemate was broken in the 23rd minute. A cross whipped in from the right flank was ineffectively cleared by Sergio Rico in the Fulham net. His punch fell to the feet of Romeu on the outskirts of the box. His left-footed shot was far from cleanly struck but managed to squirm its way through a crowded box and nestle in the back of the net.
Following the goal, the home supporters grew in confidence and looked to drive their team on to a second. However, in the 36th minute the Whites came close to levelling the score. Denis Odoi lofted an inch perfect ball into the path of Mitro who had sprung the offside trap being deployed by the Saints. With the defenders scrambling to get back, the Serbian squared to Anguissa who had tracked into the box. Under pressure from his marker, the Cameroonian struck a weak drive on target which came close to wrong-footing Angus Gunn in the Southampton goal. However, the goalkeeper reacted well and parried behind.
The lead was doubled for Southampton in the 40th minute. Redmond, who had been a livewire down the left wing, was in acres of space. After picking his spot the winger rifled a low shot on target. Rico produced a good save to parry the effort but with the ball loose in the box Ward-Prowse bundled home from close range after reacting the quickest to the vacant ball.
There was a mountain for Fulham to climb as the referee brought the first half to a close. A two goal deficit and a home side buoyed by a two goal cushion.
However, in the opening 30 seconds of the second half it seemed the Whites might take their first step in mounting a comeback. A flat-footed Southampton back line was exposed by a clever ball over the top from Håvard Nordtveit. From a tight angle Mitro looked to blast one in the back of the net with a left-footed shot. He couldn’t keep his effort down and his strike went over the bar.
With the game's intensity petering out heading into the last 15 minutes, Fulham almost pulled one back through Ryan Babel. Mitro, who remained a willing runner up front, swung a ball out to Odoi who had found space on the right flank. Without hesitation Denis whipped in a dangerous cross which ricocheted to the Dutchman. After trapping the ball, he fired an effort firmly against the bar and it bounced clear. An opportunity to make the final stages nervy for the Saints.
Southampton were happy to play out the last 10 minutes of the match in their own half and the game meandered to a close.
We are back in action this Sunday as the Whites face Chelsea in the SW6 derby alongside the banks of the Thames.