Slick Fulham way too good for shadow-chasing Millwall
Fulham 4 Millwall 0
In playground terms, this was not fair sides.
It is, of course, way too early in the season to start drawing too many conclusions about one-off contests, but it will be a major surprise if Fulham do not finish above their south London rivals this season. That much we can say with confidence.
Scott Parker has much to prove as a fledgling boss but on the evidence of this game, at the very least, the Whites are well on the way to recreating the feelgood factor of the promotion season under Slavisa Jokanovic.
The dominance of possession which characterised their great charge to the Premier League two seasons ago was back. All the guile and confidence which had gone missing during a bruising season in the top flight came flooding back. They passed Millwall death and relished every moment of it.
But there will be far greater challenges than this in the months ahead for Fulham. The Lions have started the season punching above their weight and in Neil Harris have an impassioned fighter of their cause, who knows how to husband limited resources.
But, on this evidence at least, this Millwall side looks like it needs the home comforts of a seething Den to keep heads firmly above water.
This is perhaps a little unkind, because Fulham are one of the promotion favourites and Harris’ men will not face too many better teams this season. They also surprised a good few teams the season before last and came so close to the play-offs with that bustling, no-nonsense style of theirs.
But this one really did look a lost cause for them very early on in the piece. Aleksandar Mitrovic forced Bartosz Bialkowski to tip over after getting on the end of an Anthony Knockaert cross to apply a looping, well-directed header.
Just two minutes later, a quarter of an hour gone, Tom Cairney found Ivan Cavaleiro in space on the left and he cut inside two defenders before rifling home. On 32 minutes, Knockaert netted with a stooping header after getting on the end of Cavaleiro’s cut-back from the byline.
There it was in a nutshell – evidence that the Whites could be even more potent than when they went up. Less reliant on Mitrovic to finish off those pretty passages of dazzling passing.
Jake Cooper was booked after a tangle with the Serb, who was also booked in the incident. But it was as close as Millwall came to ruffling feathers.
Harris demanded his side get in Fulham faces far more after the break. The towering Matt Smith came on. It was to no avail. When Harry Arter’s off-target shot landed at the feet of Mitrovic, Bialkowski panicked and felled the Serb. The subsequent penalty was duly dispatched.
And on 63 minutes, Cavaleiro bagged his second after getting on the end of a beautifully floated pass from Cairney to round the keeper and put away.
Fulham might have gone for more but did not need to. They have plenty of other defences to shred in the weeks ahead.
Fulham: Bettinelli – Sessegnon, Mawson, Ream, Bryan – Cairney (Reid 69), Arter (McDonald 75), Johansen – Knockaert, Mitrovic, Cavaleiro (Kamara 79). Subs not used: Rodak, Le Marchand, Reed, Christie.
Millwall: Bialkowski – Romeo, Pearce, Cooper, Wallace – Mahoney, Leonard, Williams (Smith h/t), Skalak (Ferguson 39) – Thompson (Molumby 74) – Bradshaw. Subs not used: Steele, Hutchinson, O’Brien, Bodvarsson.