Middlesbrough spoil Marco Silva's day as Fulham squander bright start
Fulham (0) 1 (Wilson 29)
Middlesbrough (0) 1 (Bola 77)
Harry Wilson marked his Fulham league debut with goal, but new boss Marco Silva was denied a winning start by a late equaliser.
The 24-year-old Wales international, recruited for £12m in the summer from Liverpool, had already stung the raised palms of Boro keeper Joe Lumley when he cut inside defender Marc Bola on the edge of the area and clipped a low left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
Much is expected of the talented midfielder and the hope is that he can finally settle after a succession of Championship loan spells at Hull, Derby, Bournemouth and Cardiff.
His was a tidy baptism, which will have delighted Silva as he attempts to pilot the yo-yo-ing Cottagers back to the Prem at the first time of asking.
The Whites did more than enough to make a winning start but were undone towards the end by visitors who had barely ventured into the danger zone all afternoon Bola nabbing the leveller.
There were predictable fun and games in this opener, as Fulham had to contend with the robust challenges which will always characterise a Neil Warnock outfit.
But Aleksandar Mitrovic got the retaliation in early with an elbow on Boro skipper Jonny Howson in the opening moments to earn a yellow card.
Not to be outdone, gargantuan striker Uche Ikpeazu was also cautioned by ref Keith Stroud for a leading arm into the face of TIm Ream in another no-holds-barred aerial duel.
The Whites were always going to be keener on trying to keep the ball on the deck and put on a show for the returning fans, who were very soon getting back into the swing of berating officials – as well as Warnock, naturally – as if they had never been away.
They have missed an entire Premier League season but are back in person – which most will feel is a fair exchange. Most of the faces on the pitch remain familiar, give or take a few new additions. And then there is that still-developing new stand to marvel at.
The clap banners are in action again. All is well with the world. Well almost.
There was an early wobble for the Whites, when a back pass from Antonee Robinson demanded a sharp readjustment from a stretching Paulo Gazzaniga foot to prevent an own goal.
But the 29-year-old Argentinian keeper had a good first outing for Fulham, though, in truth, he did not have too much to do, apart from retrieve the ball after conceding 13 minutes from time.
The danger looked to be over when Marcus Tavernier, drifting in from the right, had a shot blocked, but fellow sub, Isaiah Jones, worked the ball back into the area for Bola to drill inside the far post.
Neeskens Kebano enjoyed himself on the right against the team he played for last season on loan. His industry ought to be brought greater rewards. He pinged a couple just off target and combined well with Kenny Tete to set up a Mitrovic diving header.
A failure to get that second goal was ultimately punished.
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Gazzaniga – Tete, Tosin, Ream Robinson – Francois (Cavaleiro 83), Onomah – Wilson, Carvalho (Kamara 89), Kebano (Decordova-Reid 76) – Mitrovic. Subs not used: Rodak, Bryan, Seri, Mawson
Middlesbrough (3-4-1-2): Lumley – Hall, Fry, McNair – Dijksteel, Howson, Morsy (Jones 71), Bota – Crooks – Watmore (Spence 55), Ikpeazu (Tavernier 55). Subs not used: Stojanovic, Payero, Peltier, Coburn