Alex Brister’s sublime strike earned Fulham Under-21s a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League on Friday evening.
Following an even first half, Boro came close after the interval when they hit the woodwork, but Brister’s wonderful effort shortly after was worthy of winning any game.
It took six minutes for either side to threaten the goal and the chance went the way of the visitors as Ryan Brobbel beat Jack Grimmer to a clever through ball, only to see Marcus Bettinelli rush out quickly to smother the angle and make a comfortable save.
Two minutes later and Fulham went closer following a corner kick. The set-piece was sent in by Sean Kavanagh and Josh Passley met Lasse Vigen Christensen’s nod back with a downward header from close range, only for Luke Coddington to make a fantastic reaction stop.
Some lovely play in the area by Muamer Tankovic on 24 minutes saw him turn his man with ease before cutting the ball back for Tom Richards on the six yard line. The winger got his shot away but the covering Boro defender bravely got in the way of the shot.
That chance seemed to bring the visitors to life as they immediately went up the other end with a quick move that culminated in Luke Williams going through one-on-one, but Bettinelli was there again to make a fine save.
A neat chipped ball over the top from Kavanagh on 28 minutes almost found the run of Vigen Christensen but the Dane couldn’t get a foot around it. The vocal home support appealed that the covering defender shepherded it back to his ‘keeper with his hand, but the referee was having none of it.
In what was a fragmented game, it wasn’t until the 41st minute that another chance was mustered and it was speculative at best as Chris David bent one wide from 35 yards.
Fulham were caught flat footed following a stoppage time corner as three Middlesbrough forwards countered with just Brister back. Thankfully the Whites right-back read the situation maturely and his positioning tempted Brobbel into a difficult shot which he bent over the angle of post and crossbar.
Kit Symons’ side started the second period the stronger but the Teesiders went close to breaking the deadlock on 48 minutes when Andrew Halliday wobbled Bettinelli’s crossbar with a thumping effort from distance.
But it was the Whites who took the lead through a world class strike from Brister when a long ball over the top found him at a tight angle just inside the penalty area. He allowed time to steady himself before unleashing an incredible first time effort with the outside of his right foot that bent inside and kissed the far post before nestling in the back of the net.
The goal gave the home side confidence and a Brister cross found Marcello Trotta in the box on 57 minutes. The Italian controlled well before hitting a shot on the swivel that Coddington parried to safety.
A minute later and Boro backs were against the walls once more, this time to deflect Trotta’s fierce effort from Vigen Christensen’s cross over the bar.
With 20 minutes remaining, Andrew Halliday tested Bettinelli once more with a firm shot on the turn, but he found the Fulham stopper to be alert as he claimed the effort with minimal fuss.
The game was becoming quite stretched as Boro tried to turn the screw, and they came within a whisker of finding an equaliser on 83 minutes when substitute Jordan Jones found space in the area before lashing narrowly wide with Bettinelli beaten.
Andrew Halliday was next to try his luck two minutes later but his header from Jonathan Burn’s cross sailed well over the bar.
Matthew Dolan sent a free-kick the wrong side of the post for Boro and Fulham sub Dino Islamovic crashed an effort wide in the closing stages, but no further goals were forthcoming as the Whites held on for a solid win.
Fulham: 1. Bettinelli, 2. Brister, 3. Kavanagh, 4. Vigen Christensen, 5. Arthurworrey, 6. Grimmer (C), 7. Passley, 8. David (16. Minkwitz, 77 mins), 9. Trotta (15. Islamovic, 81 mins), 10. Tankovic (14. Woodrow, 62 mins), 11. Richards
Subs: 12. Joronen, 14. Woodrow, 15. Islamovic, 16. Minkwitz, 17. Buatu
Middlesbrough: 1. Coddington, 2. B Halliday, 3. Burn, 4. Jackson (C), 5. Meling, 6. Dolan, 7. Brobbel, 8. Morris (15. Bennet, 84 mins), 9. Williams (16. Jones, 76 mins), 10. Waters (12. Kneeshaw, 62 mins), 11. A Halliday
Subs: 21. Fryer, 12. Kneeshaw, 14. Weledji, 15. Bennet, 16. Jones