Wearing a Fulham shirt for the first time, Kostas Mitroglou scored twice to help our U21s to a 5-3 victory against Aston Villa.
Having slipped to their first league defeat of the season last week, following a 2-1 loss against Chelsea, Kit Symons’ side returned to winning ways – and in some style.
A positive start from the hosts saw Graham Burke, Jordan Bowery and Callum Robinson all go close, however, it was our new Greek striker that opened the scoring when firing in a confident finish on 19 minutes.
The 25-year-old, eligible as one of our three permitted overage players, then showed his class again moments later when sending a stunning looping shot over Villa keeper Benjamin Siegrist.
Villa responded, although they had Fulham defender Liam Donnelly to thank, when the Northern Ireland youth international turned Jordan Graham’s corner into his own net on the half hour mark.
At the other end, Mitroglou went close to a hat-trick, but saw his volley turned to safety by Siegrist, while Marek Rodak made an even more spectacular save to keep out Burke.
Villa were, though, on level terms not long after the break, with Robinson steering in via Donnelly from Bowery’s teasing cross.
In an attempt to restore Fulham’s lead, Mitroglou cut in from the right before striking the foot of the post with a cleverly placed, low shot on the run.
As both teams created chances, it was the home side that made the breakthrough on 69 minutes when Daniel Johnson slotted in a coolly taken penalty after Mananga Jonathan Buatu had brought Bowery down in the box.
Della Verde made amends, though, flighting in a brilliant corner from which Cauley Woodrow expertly converted with a volley to set up an exciting final 10 minutes.
Having scored in the defeat against Chelsea, Woodrow netted his third goal in two games when keeping his composure to shoot beyond the reach of Siegrist following Donnelly’s powerful run and cross.
Fulham all but wrapped up the points on 85 minutes when, helped by the strong wind, goalkeeper Rodak’s clearance sailed over his opposite number in the Villa goal.
Under-21 Manager Kit Symons told fulhamfc.com: “It was a crazy game, and although the pitch was fantastic, the conditions were quite bad at times. In spite of that, though, I thought we kept the ball well and aside from the first 20 minutes of the second half I thought we played some fantastic football.
“We showed good character, particularly after they [Villa] got themselves in front, so the approach and mentality was there. After Kostas took his two goals well, Cauley did the same and suddenly we were 4-3 up. Then of course came the freak goal from Marek, which isn’t something you often see.
“There were good performances all round, which was very pleasing and I thought the players that stepped up from the Under-18s did really well. Obviously, Kostas got a run out as he looks to get up to speed and to full fitness. He didn’t want to come off the pitch, so that was encouraging to see, as was his general application.
“After the defeat against Chelsea, it was good to get back to winning ways so quickly, and we’ll go again when we face Leicester City on Monday.”
Fulham U21s: Rodak; Donnelly, Buatu, Burgess, Richards; Roberts, Della Verde, Christensen (Sambou 78), Plumain (Evans 68); Woodrow, Mitroglou (Hyndman 62). (Subs not used): Oberschmidt, Brister.
*Image courtesy of www.avfc.co.uk