A Moussa Dembele-inspired Fulham Under-18s defeated Reading 3-1 at Motspur Park on Tuesday afternoon.
Dembele had put the Whites two goals up by half-time and although the Royals pulled one back, his stoppage-time strike secured his hat-trick and the points.
Dembele’s first was a neat finish following a mistake by the visiting defence, whilst his second was a powerful volley after Reading had failed to clear their lines from a Fulham corner.
A Josh Passley foul saw the Berkshire side reduce the deficit but Dembele tapped in late on to maintain the Under-18s’ 100 per cent record in the Elite Group.
Reading started the game brightly and had the ball in the back of the net on three minutes, but offside was given as it was headed in from a well-delivered free kick.
With nine minutes gone, Muamer Tankovic forced the keeper into a fine sprawling save with a rasping drive from range, before a gut-busting run down half the length of the pitch from Passley ended with him putting in a dangerous cross that was headed away for a corner. A goalmouth scramble followed but nobody could force the ball in and the referee ended up awarding the away side a free-kick.
The Whites took the lead on 14 minutes when a Reading defender attempted to play the ball back to his goalkeeper but could only find Dembele. The forward kept his composure to easily slot beyond the advancing keeper.
And Steve Wigley's side made it two on 21 minutes. A blistering counter attack saw Dembele play in Pat Roberts, but his left-footed effort was superbly palmed wide for a corner. Reading failed to clear the subsequent set-piece and Dembele thundered home a volley with aplomb inside the crowded penalty area.
Reading responded with a sweet free-kick which Max Oberschmidt was relieved to see fly just wide of his near post. Dembele was causing all manner of problems and he won a free-kick on 32 minutes when he was hauled down 20 yards from goal. Tankovic curled the resultant set-piece goalwards but it just clipped the bar before going over. It was a great effort from the Swede.
Fulham were dominating but Reading remained a threat and had an effort hit the woodwork themselves when their lone striker saw his low shot come back off the post, before George Williams saw an effort well saved on 43 minutes after Dembele had played him in from the left.
Reading started the second period with intent and it required a great last-ditch tackle from Liam Donnelly - a half-time replacement for Williams - to deny their right winger a clear shot on goal just inside the box.
Good play between Roberts and Emerson Hyndman down the right on 58 minutes saw the ball cut back to Tankovic but his shot was comfortably saved, and Reading had the ball in the net for the second time a minute later, but it was ruled out for a foul in the build-up. More good link-up play between Hyndman and Roberts saw the American play the winger in, only to see the keeper smother the shot that followed.
Dembele was desperately unlucky not to secure his hat-trick on 71 minutes. His pace saw him go one on one after being played in by Tankovic and his shot beat the keeper but hit the bar and bounce down onto the line. Unfortunately, the spin on the ball didn't work in Fulham's favour and it rolled away from goal rather than over the line. Hyndman was next to try his luck when he was in space eight yards from goal but he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Reading pulled one back on 76 minutes with a penalty after Passley was adjudged to have blocked his man unfairly. Oberschmidt went the right way but there was too much power on the spot-kick.
Dembele was again denied the match ball moments later when his shot was blocked on the line by a man in yellow. And Tankovic missed a chance to sew up the points on 83 minutes, dragging his long-range effort narrowly wide after Dembele had found him with a neat flick.
Dembele wasn't to be denied altogether, though, as he secured his hat-trick in stoppage time following good play by substitute Dean O’Halloran.
Fulham: 1. Oberschmidt, 2. Passley (c), 3. Evans, 4. Burgess, 5. Arthurworrey, 6. Hyndman, 7. Roberts (16. O'Halloran), 8. Sambou, 9. Dembele, 10. Tankovic, 11. Williams (14. Donnelly)
Subs (not used): 12. Granger, 15. O'Reilly, 17. Richards