A fine Charles Banya effort and a Marcello Trotta brace saw Fulham Under-21s overcome Chelsea 3-1 at a rain-soaked Craven Cottage on Friday evening.
Kit Symons named Kerim Frei, Philippe Senderos and Ashkan Dejagah in his starting XI as they continued their comebacks from their respective injuries. New signing Mickael Tavares was also handed a starting berth.
After a feisty start, with both sides struggling to keep hold of the ball on a soaking surface, it was the hosts who came closest to opening the scoring on seven minutes. After winning a free-kick just outside the area, Frei went to take the set-piece but fooled the men in blue with a clever dummy, leaving Alex Smith to curl a fine effort against the post with the keeper well beaten.
Fulham were doing well to contain our rivals but we did need a superb last ditch sliding tackle from Senderos to rob Patrick Bamford who had found his way through on goal on 12 minutes.
Banya was proving a useful outlet down the left flank and he had a decent penalty appeal turned down on 25 minutes when he was sandwiched between two Chelsea defenders.
Banya was not to be denied, though, as he scored a goal of sublime quality just three minutes later. Senderos delivered a high, searching cross-field ball which Banya connected with at full stretch to expertly volley over Jamal Blackman in the Chelsea goal. The young winger did well to even reach the ball but showed a majestic composure to lift his shot up and over the keeper.
Two minutes later he almost doubled his and Fulham’s lead when he connected with Jack Grimmer’s low cross but he lifted his shot over the bar under pressure from a defender in blue.
Chelsea responded with a decent effort from range by Lewis Baker but – although his shot had Csaba Somogyi concerned – it was never going to find the back of the net.
The visitors were level moments later, however, when Billy Clifford’s free-kick slipped through Somogyi’s palms and into the back of the net. The ball was dripping wet but the Hungarian will be disappointed not to keep it out nonetheless.
Fulham came back instantly on 37 minutes when Dejagah weaved his way into the area before Trotta took the ball off his toes with a powerful first-time strike that Blackman parried away for a corner.
Trotta was in the mood and did well to jink past Nathan Ake to make space for himself in the box – unfortunately his low drive went narrowly wide of the near post.
The Whites took the lead their play deserved in stoppage time when Frei robbed the last defender, rounded Blackman with ease and fed Trotta who took a touch before firing the ball into the roof of the net.
As expected, both Dejagah and Senderos were withdrawn at the break, with Alex Brister and Pajtim Kasami coming on in their place.
Fulham took just three minutes to extend the lead and it was Frei and Trotta linking up again as our number nine headed in Kerim’s dangerous free-kick from the left wing.
Chelsea looked for a way back into the game and nearly found it on 56 minutes when Lucas Piazon hit a wicked free-kick, only to see his effort crack against the post.
The Blues were awarded another free-kick on 70 minutes and Lewis Baker took some paint off the other post this time, with Somogyi well beaten.
Frei was withdrawn from the action three minutes later as Tom Donegan replaced him. The 18-year-old had put in an influential performance and looked as though he had never been away. He’ll certainly prove a useful option for Martin Jol as the season progresses.
Fulham twice went close to further extending their lead in the closing stages through Sean Kavanagh and Donegan, before Somogyi did well to hold Bamford’s powerful 20-yard drive – a shot which proved to be the last effort of the match.
Fulham: 1.Somogyi, 2. Grimmer, 3. Kavanagh, 4. Tavares, 5. Senderos (14. Brister, 45 mins), 6. Musa, 7. Dejagah (15. Kasami, 45 mins), 8. Smith (c), 9. Trotta, 10, Frei (16. Donegan, 73 mins), 11. Banya. Subs (not used): 12. Grainger, 17. Pritchard.
Chelsea: 1. Blackman, 2. Kane (c), 3. Davey (12. Christensen, 53 mins), 4. Ake, 5. Deen-Conteh (16. Boga, 64 mins), 6. C. Clifford (14. Islam, 52 mins), 7. Baker, 8. B. Clifford, 9. Bamford, 10. Saville, 11.Piazon. Subs (not used): 13. Beeney, 15. Nditi.