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  • Julian Taylor at Craven Cottage

Cottagers comfortably outfoxed as Leicester make capital



Fulham 0 Leicester City 2


Faltering Fulham fell to defeat on a night when the gap between themselves and buoyant Leicester City was all too obvious.


First half goals from Foxes’ pair Kelechi Iheanacho and James Justin made the difference. Scott Parker’s side, while industrious, simply had no ingenuity or imagination to break down a team so renowned for its organisation and diligence. For the majority of this clash, there was little doubt that visiting boss Brendan Rodgers would be taking all three points back to the east Midlands, with Leicester now moving up to third place, ahead of Liverpool’s later kick-off against Brighton.


Fulham were too predictable, lacking both width and confidence in front of goal, while at the same time facing one of the most resourceful outfits they are likely to face all season. Indeed, with Leicester doubling their lead just before the interval there was a sense of foreboding that any rescue mission was to be very unlikely indeed.


The Cottagers' supposedly influential players, such as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, were largely anonymous here: a concern for fans in these attempts to prise away from the danger zone. In the case of loanee Loftus-Cheek, it was no surprise to see him withdrawn with 20 minutes to go.


On this evidence, the prospects for Saturday’s upcoming task, at home to in-form West Ham, look increasingly difficult for Parker’s men.


While Fulham were without a Premier League victory in their last ten attempts they were, at least, carving out a reputation as draw specialists. A minor consolation, obviously, when you are third from bottom of the table, but the previous weekend’s performance at West Bromwich Albion was very encouraging, despite being held to a 2-2 stalemate. Leicester, though, certainly proved this was something of a false dawn.


The Cottagers registered a rare win in this campaign in November’s corresponding game, so the visitors – high flying in fourth place – had their own motivations and were clearly expected to be fired up. That Jamie Vardy, so voracious and indispensable in attack for the Foxes, was still out with injury could only be a positive for Fulham, who declined to include transfer deadline day signing, Josh Maja.


The opening skirmishes were fairly even - and it took until the 11th minute for the first opportunity to present itself. Mitrovic really should have got more power into his close range effort after being set up nicely by Andre Anguissa. However, perhaps this was to be the shape of things to come from the hosts? That idea proved to be wishful thinking when Leicester took the lead in 17 minutes with a simple, well-worked manoeuvre.


James Maddison, such a major influence these days for the Foxes, clipped in a trademark cross from the right hand side and, with the ball just eluding Joachim Andersen, Iheanacho was lurking - and the striker’s header was much too powerful for Fulham keeper Alphonse Areola to keep out.


For all their work rate, the Cottagers were finding space, time and opportunities increasingly rare as the first half wore on, with Rodgers’ side growing in confidence after going in front. Mitrovic, in particular, was getting little change from the combative Leicester partnership of Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu. Unfortunately for Fulham, they were too often wasteful in midfield and constantly forced back from dangerous areas.


Finally, a chance. With a few minutes to go before half time, from a corner, Tosin Adarabioyo had a firm header turned over the crossbar by Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.


Such was the sense of frustration, the Londoners switched off momentarily immediately afterwards, which was clinically punished in 43 minutes for the second goal of the evening.


Maddison again was the architect, on the break this time, drawing away Andersen before slipping the ball into the path of Justin. The Foxes’ full back evaded the desperate challenge of both Areola and Adarabioyo before tucking home.


Fulham chief Parker opted to make a couple of half time changes in an attempt to freshen matters up. Anguissa made way for Mario Lemina while Kenny Tete was sacrificed for Ivan Cavaleiro. The Whites had little choice but to take a calculated risk with this encounter threatening to run away from them. Cavaleiro did have a sight of goal in 48 minutes but the winger drove his 18 yard shot a fraction wide.


Leicester then had a goal ruled out for offside when Ricardo Pereira rifled home, which really would have killed the contest. The Foxes, noted for their cunning on the counter-attack, were content to sit in and play to their obvious strengths, making life hard for Fulham.


Bobby Decordova-Reid replaced the ineffective Loftus-Cheek with the Whites anxious to give themselves any kind of opportunity to retrieve the situation. Decordova-Reid managed to flash a shot into the side netting amid a slight flurry of activity with ten minutes left. Yet, the unconvincing manner of his attempt mirrored so much about Fulham’s overall performance.


Parker will, somehow, need to find a better approach for West Ham’s visit.


Fulham: Areola, Tosin, Andersen, Aina, Robinson, Anguissa (Lemina 46), Reed, Tete (Cavaleiro 46), Lookman, Mitrovic, Loftus-Cheek (Decordova-Reid 70)




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