Fulham 0 v Southampton 1
Fulham did not crash out of the Carabao Cup, more likely they limped out to Southampton at Craven Cottage tonight - losing 1-0 but it could have been a Ben Stokes scoreline for the South Coast side.
Fulham boss Scott Parker made nine changes from the 1-2 league defeat to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
The fact that Fulham are away to Cardiff City on Friday, the singular reason why he went with this side and effectively kept during the cup tie.
And while it was laudable that the Whites attempted to replicate the crisp passing of the first 11, expecting this side to do so was asking for trouble - and trouble it was.
Having a back five including the goalkeeper playing keep ball looks impressive in the opening exchanges. But when the opposition sit back and allow them to have the ball, closing down any midfield outlet thus isolating the strikers, then there is nowhere for the ball to go - that’s when Southampton pounced.
Parker refused to alter his tactics even when going a deserved goal behind. Time after time the home side lacked the required composure and concentration at the back, that the Saints did not score many more than the solitary one was down to stopper Marek Rodak.
But it kind of started rather well for the Whites.
Lucas de la Torre had the first effort on six minutes after excellent left wing set-up-play between Josh Onomah and Aboubakar Kamara.
De la Torre’s edge of the penalty area shot skied over Alex McCarthy’s crossbar.
McCarthy’s was instantly called into action a minute late when after Bobby Decordova-Reid rattled his crossbar, Cyrus Christie’s goal-bound header was tipped over the bar by the stopper.
After a long period of passing to themselves in their own final third, the Whites broke free with De La Torre going on a 25 yard run.
His angled shot from cut across McCarthy but also wide of goal.
Needless indulgence by Onomah on 30 minutes, but also a consequence of good closing down by then Saints saw Michael Obafemi challenge home debutant Marek Rodak for the ball - thankfully for Onomah, the goalkeeper won the encounter.
When Fulham attempted some attacking flair, they cut the saints apart - again, wayward finishing from Decordova-Reid saw the breakaway on 34 minutes come to nothing.
There was no change from either side at half-time.
Stefan Johansen caused a mild ruck three minutes in when he hacked down advancing Sofiane Boufal. The White was given a straightforward yellow card.
James Ward-Prowse too the resultant free kick and whacked the 25-yarder inches over Rodak’s crossbar.
A sensational save by Rodak kept the Whites in the game when Oriol Romeu, the former Chelsea midfielder latched onto a horrendous attempted penalty area clearance from Maxine Le Marchand. The Slovakian stopper tipped away the powerful edge of the area strike for a corner .
Nathan Redmond then headed over the crossbar from a ward-Prowse free-kick as the home side struggled to get hold of the ball.
But the goal was coming, and Michael Obafemi was Johnny-on-the spot to tap home from six yards after an excellent left byline cross by Redmond teed the ball up perfectly for the diminutive striker on 57 minutes.
Rodak was easily Fulham’s best player on the night, thwarting substitute Danny Ings on 78 minutes, when the striker had a free run of the Fulham half to attack.
Parker replaced Stefan Johansen for Terese Francois two minutes later.
bern Davis had a minute’s run out at the expense of De la Torre. he was quickly followed by Kamara who was replaced by ex-Chelsea youngster Martel Taylor-Crossdale.
Teams: Fulham, Rodak, McDonald, Decordova-Reid, Le Marchand, Christie, Bryan, Onomah, O’Riley, De La Torre, Kamara
Subs: Norman, Odoi, Opoku, Francois, Davis, Taylor-Crossdale, Sessegnon
Southampton: McCarthy, Soares, Djenepo, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, Boufal, Obafemi, Redmond, Emile-Hojbjerg, Bednarek, Danso
Subs: Gunn, Yoshida, Stephens, Long, Ings, Armstrong, Valero
Referee R Jones