Millwall 0 Fulham 3 Photo by Yann Tear
Ryan Sessegnon silenced the boos home fans inexplicably directed at him during a nerve-shredding first half to put Fulham on the road to a win that keeps their hopes of automatic promotion alive.
The 17-year-old – the Championship player of the season – pounced early in the second half after Jordan Archer had spilled a speculative long-range effort from Aleksandar Mitrovic.
The goal came out of the blue after a first half in which the Whites were distinctly second best and often hanging by a thread. Unbeaten in 21 before kick-off, they were made to work hard to repel a Millwall side unbeaten in 17 themselves.
But suddenly liberated by the strike, Fulham never looked back.
They almost doubled their lead immediately through Stefan Johansen – his skewed effort going wide after he had scampered through on goal. Yet it only delayed what had suddenly become inevitable, as Kevin McDonald rounded George Saville and was allowed time to curl a perfect shot into the roof of the net from outside the box.
The tide had well and truly turned. A low shot from Sessegnon almost made it 3-0 but Archer got down well to keep it out. Another from the youngster fizzed past the far post late on.
A third goal finally arrived on 89 minutes – Mitrovic getting his obligatory goal after being set up by Tomas Kalas, just on as a sub, who bolted through the middle of a retreating defence before laying off to the unmarked Serb.
Away fans perched on the upper tier had a bird’s eye view of the masterclass being laid on for them by their team, who were attacking that end of the ground.
If sheer noise could get you promoted, few would back against Millwall making it, and they are still in a great position to finish in the top six, even if this result is potentially a major setback.
Fulham are now back in that second promotion slot, two points above Cardiff, but having played two games more. They have just two games left. They may yet be denied that final placing but this was a real promotion performance.
The Den was as raucous as hell, and at times it seemed as if the barrage of decibels might cow Fulham into submission.
The Whites needed stout hearts to survive a stern early examination and although they eventually wrestled most of the possession, the hosts looked more menacing with their speed on the break, direct approach and sheer energy levels.
Millwall players very soon were taking their lead from the visceral, pumped up terraces.
In the opening moments Jake Cooper was left totally unattended at the far post from an inswinging Ben Marshall corner and thundered a header against the crossbar – the faintest of touches from Marcus Bettinelli both brilliant and vital.
Not long after, Saville sent the home fans into a frenzy – turning the ball home from close range. But Ref Andre Marriner noticed that Jed Wallace had climbed all over Matt Targett to nod down a Marshall cross from the left in the build-up.
It was 17 minutes before Fulham finally mounted a threat – a Targett cross headed over by Alex Mitrovic. Even the normally unflappable Tom Cairney was being hounded to death.
But gradually he exerted influence, as the very best players do. Kevin McDonald picked out Sessegnon on the byline and a low cross caused panic in the Lions’ defence before it was cleared.
As the half ended, Targett found room to ping a shot onto the top of the bar from 22 yards to hint at better things to come. But it might have been a different story had Tim Ream not cleared off the line from Wallace after Bettinelli had flapped at a cross in from the left.
A cute ball from Wallace also almost caught Fulham napping and Steve Morison crossed just too high for his strike partner Lee Gregory.