Fulham ease past Millwall and introduce teenage prospect
Harvey Elliott had been tipped to rise through the ranks.
Joe Bryan, Luca de la Torre and Cyrus Christie scored their first goals for Fulham who gave a debut to a 15-year-old in their 3-1 Carabao Cup victory at Millwall.
Fulham had gone three matches without victory since overcoming Exeter in the same competition, and this time effortlessly outclassed Championship opposition at The Den.
They were in such control that academy star Harvey Elliott was brought on for the final 10 minutes, becoming the club’s youngest ever player.
Both teams made multiple changes from their past league fixtures, demonstrating it is survival and not cup football that remains their priority, but it was only Millwall whose performance suffered as a consequence.
The hosts had lost 2-0 at West Brom last time out and after eight changes retained only goalkeeper Ben Amos, Jake Cooper and Jiri Skalak in their starting XI; Fulham had drawn 1-1 with Watford but similarly only Kevin McDonald again started.
If a disjointed affair was then expected, it said much for the depth in the visitors’ squad and the extent to which their manager Slavisa Jokanovic has drilled his players within their expansive system that they instead excelled.
Millwall’s struggles may have left them in the relegation zone but Fulham regardless impressed in the way their passing football repeatedly stretched them — even if they again often lacked a consistent threat in the final third.
It was in the seventh minute when Bryan gave them the lead. From midfield, De la Torre played a classy through-ball to the full-back, who controlled possession. From a tight angle towards the left of the area, he powerfully finished low and just inside the far right post.
The normally-composed Lee Gregory was gifted time and space and from a better position to find an equalising goal when fed by Shane Ferguson, but his shot lacked power and direction and left Sergio Rico with only a simple save.
As play wore on it became increasingly clear how costly his miss would be, and Millwall were almost immediately punished when from 25 yards McDonald struck well but curled just wide having brushed the left post.
Jokanovic’s team were similarly positive without possession, pressing the hosts and denying them any stability or respite, and to the extent that when Fulham’s second followed they already looked out of reach.
This time it came seven minutes into the second half, through the influential De la Torre. Christie had already gone close when Floyd Ayite got back in behind Millwall’s defence to cross for De la Torre, who from close range then took a touch before shooting beyond Amos.
Millwall were given encouragement when in the 61st minute Tom Elliot headed in, with the hosts struggling to defend Ferguson’s corner and after a 12-match run without scoring, but Christie’s fine strike ended any uncertainty.
Amid another attack and space towards the edge of the area, the full-back took advantage of the time he had been gifted to superbly curl with his left foot low and into the far left corner, well out of the diving Amos’ reach.
Fulham’s sense of comfort was then confirmed when the 15-year-old Elliott was introduced for Ayite, to make his debut.