Palace take their chances as Fulham come up short
Jeffrey Schlupp and Wilfried Zaha fired Roy Hodgson’s side to victory.
Crystal Palace taught Fulham a painful lesson on their return to the Premier League with a clinical 2-0 victory at Craven Cottage.
Having absorbed much of their adventurous hosts’ pressure, they punished rare lapses in intensity and concentration to score towards the end of each half through Jeffrey Schlupp and then Wilfried Zaha.
There was regardless cause for encouragement for Slavisa Jokanovic’s team in the way they often outplayed such an established side, but if they are to retain their top-flight status they will know that they will have to become similarly ruthless.
Jokanovic handed full debuts to six of his summer signings, and his new-look team began as if lifted by the optimism that has built around them.
Complemented by Jean Michael Seri, Calum Chambers, Fabri, Maxime le Marchand, Joe Bryan and Andre Schurrle, they often stretched their visitors in a way that showed that they will continue to entertain.
Palace, whose highest-profile arrival Max Meyer did not even make the substitutes’ bench because of a lack of match fitness, retained a similar XI to that which again led them to safety last season.
Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and James McArthur were preferred to the recently-recruited Vicente Guaita and Cheikhou Kouyate, and if Roy Hodgson had hoped stability would provide an advantage he was ultimately proved right.
Cyrus Christie had already tested Hennessey with a low shot when Aleksandar Mitrovic forced him into another save having teed himself up for a close-range volley after controlling Schurrle’s right-wing cross.
Palace’s Andros Townsend had seen an ambitious strike from midfield saved by Fabri and then crossed for Christian Benteke, whose looping header stretched the goalkeeper into a fine save, but the relief those chances provided was brief.
The £22million Mitrovic — making his first competitive appearance since joining Fulham permanently following his loan from Newcastle — demonstrated that again when he dispossessed Mamadou Sakho before running and shooting towards the bottom left corner, where Hennessey again saved.
It was four minutes before half-time when, against the run of play, the visitors took the lead. Townsend exchanged passes with Patrick van Aanholt, whose through-ball fed Schlupp and allowed the midfielder to turn and from the near post send an explosive finish into the top left corner, beyond Fabri’s reach.
They grew in confidence but the hosts still posed the greater threat and were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty shortly after the hour mark when Sakho clumsily brought down Schurrle.
Palace produced an almost immediate response when Benteke nodded Hennessey’s long free-kick towards Zaha to send him through on Fabri, who produced a superb reaction save from the forward’s powerful strike.
In keeping with the contest, Mitrovic then again went close, this time with an angled header from Bryan’s cross that the impressive Hennessey again saved.
It was Fulham’s ambition that again exposed them, this time in the 79th minute when Aaron Wan-Bissaka won possession, countered and played in Zaha, who went to round Fabri and instead finished underneath him.
Ryan Sessegnon’s header again tested Hennessey but the Palace goalkeeper produced a fine save to secure all three points and a clean sheet.