English Premier League

Crystal Palace defeat Fulham

At the end of a half defined by Fulham’s failure to make more from slick passing and movement in attack, Patrick van Aanholt found Jeffrey Schlupp, who smashed home from inside the box amid slack marking from Calum Chambers.

Aleksandar Mitrovic had twice been denied by smart Wayne Hennessey stops, with Cyrus Christie also turned away from the range, as seven new faces in the Fulham line-up showed few signs of failing to gel.

Fulham began their return to the Premier League with a home defeat by Crystal Palace, who matched the new arrivals’ adventurous display with a smart and clinical away performance.

Crystal Palace

But Slavisa Jokanovic’s side, whose squad has been boosted by 12 new signings, were kept at arm’s length as Palace defended strongly and threatened on the break.

It was a pattern that grew in emphasis in the second half, despite Fulham having a big penalty claim turned down when Andre Schurrle went down under a Mamadou Sakho challenge in the box.

Just moments later, Wilfried Zaha should have doubled the lead but his low shot inside the box was diverted behind by Fabri’s legs. But the Ivory Coast forward finally did seal the win with 11 minutes to play when coolly finishing under the Spanish goalkeeper after latching on to Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s through ball.

Fulham – who drew 2-2 with Palace in their previous top-flight fixture in May 2014 – may feel the result does not tell the whole story of the match; they had 66.3% possession and mustered 14 shots at goal.

However, it was Palace who emerged with greater reward from their share of the ball, from which they conjured nine shots on target, including two very well-taken goals.

New-look Fulham start brightly but fade

Five deadline-day signings on Thursday brought Fulham’s total summer to spend over the £100m mark – no promoted club has spent more before taking on English football’s top flight.

Only Chelsea and Liverpool invested more, and the calibre of the signings the Cottagers made will have raised expectations beyond a 17th-place finish.

On the surface at least, the west London club has strengthened in every position, and clearly, the ambition is to continue the attractive style that brought them up as Championship play-off winners in May.

They started very brightly – for much of the first half you wondered whether Palace would be able to hang on – but after Schlupp’s goal, the zip and momentum that marked the game’s early stages seemed to dim slightly.

Of the new signings, Jean Michael Seri was Fulham’s outstanding performer, dogged and stylish in midfield, but even the 27-year-old Ivorian, who was strongly linked to Barcelona last year, could not halt Palace’s growing influence on the match in the second half.

New year, new start, old Palace

Last season Palace began their campaign with a run of seven consecutive defeats in which they failed to score a single goal.

It was on 14 October 2017 when they finally found the net and won a game, beating Chelsea 2-1 at home under Roy Hodgson, his fourth match in charge following the sacking of Frank de Boer.

On Friday, Palace and Hodgson added an extra year to his contract, which now runs until 2020 – the reward for a strong end to the season that saw Palace climb the table and finish 11th.

Coming away from Craven Cottage with a valuable win earned through hard work and concentration in defiance of an exciting attacking line-up, Hodgson’s team carried on here like they left off in May.

There were nervy moments – the decision not to punish Sakho for his slide on Schurrle most obviously, and Hennessey made several important saves – but Palace ultimately deserved victory, not only for the quality of their defensive performance but for their slick and sharp counter-attacking, too.

By comparison with Fulham, a modest number of four new faces arrived at Selhurst Park this summer – two of which were absent from the squad – Jordan Ayew and Max Meyer.

Ex-West Ham midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate came on for his debut late on, with the three points already won, while goalkeeper Vicente Guaita, an observer from the bench, will have no chance of replacing Hennessey anytime soon on this form.

Source: BBC News