Claudio Ranieri's first game in charge of Fulham ended with a stunning 3-2 victory over Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle proved to be enough for Fulham, who managed to fight their way to their second win of the season.
Southampton started the game brightly and broke the deadlock after 18 minutes through Stuart Armstrong. The Scotsman ghosted into the Fulham box unmarked before stroking home a decent finish into the far corner, leaving Sergio Rico with very little chance in the Fulham goal.
Fulham responded positively and, after fashioning a few half chances, drew level in the 32nd minute through Aleksandar Mitrovic. Maxime Le Marchand found some space on the left flank and delivered a delicate ball into the box, inviting Mitrovic to nod home his sixth goal of the season.
After soaking up some considerable pressure, Fulham put themselves in the driving seat just before the half time interval. Ryan Sessegnon demonstrated some fine footwork before delivering an inch perfect pass across the box towards Andre Schurrle, who only had to pass the ball beyond the helpless Alex McCarthy.
The second half exploded into life and, shortly after McCarthy produced a stunning save to keep his side in contention, Southampton levelled the tie up.
Armstrong notched his second goal of the day with an absolute rocket into the top left corner, silencing the rapturous home crowd in the process.
The action didn't stop there and Mitrovic grabbed a brace of his own to restore Fulham's lead on the hour mark. Cyrus Christie delivered a tempting cross which was flicked on by Sessegnon into the path of the Serbian, who didn't need a second invitation to volley the ball home.
Southampton pushed for another equaliser during the closing exchanges, but Fulham held strong to earn themselves a hard fought victory.
Key Talking Point
Whilst the manner of Slavisa Jokanovic's dismissal was somewhat harsh, Fulham's dreadful defensive record was enough evidence to suggest that a change was probably needed at Craven Cottage.
Claudio Ranieri's first priority is to sort out the Cottagers' worryingly leaky back line and, whilst there is still some work to do in that area of the pitch, there were plenty of positives to take away from their overall performance.
They looked much slicker in possession, got forward quickly in numbers and were clinical in the final third. On the basis of this match alone, Fulham should have more than enough to avoid relegation this season.
Starting XI: Rico (8); Christie (7), Odoi (6), Mawson (6), Le Marchand (6); Chambers (6), Seri (7), Cairney (6); Schurrle (7), Sessegnon (8), Mitrovic (8*).
Substitutes: Johansen (6), Kamara (5), Ayite (N/A).
Star Man - Aleksandar Mitrovic has been one of the few shining lights for Fulham so far this season, but he came into this one after failing to score in his past six appearances.
He was almost impossible to deal with all afternoon and he bullied the Southampton defence into submission at times. He scored a brilliant brace and, without him, Fulham wouldn't have come away with all three points.
Special shout out to Mitrovic, it would have been so easy for him to mail it in today considering his compatriot who rejuvenated him was sacked. He was outstanding. Get him the supply line and he can score against any team.— Colin Bennett (@ColBennettH4) November 24, 2018
Those Mitrovic goals were legit nice. He's fitting in well at Fulham— Stopspot (@ElStopSpot) November 24, 2018
Berbatov vibes on that finish from Mitrovic— Dinesh Kumar (@DHardayal) November 24, 2018
Worst Player - There were no poor individual performances on show for Fulham, but Denis Odoi did have one or two nervy moments in defence which went unpunished by Southampton.
Key Talking Point
Southampton were arguably the better side for large portions of the game, but lapses in concentration at the back ended up costing them dearly.
It is hard to see where the points are going to come for the Saints. None of their strikers are in good form, their defence is starting to ship goals on a regular basis and Mark Hughes seems to be devoid of ideas in the dugout.
The Welsh manager's time on the south coast may be at threat of coming to an end before the year is out if he fails to turn the tide.
Starting XI: McCarthy (6); Cedric (6), Hoedt (5), Yoshida (5), Targett (6); Lemina (7), Hojbjerg (6), Gabbiadini (5), Redmond (7), Armstrong (7); Austin (5).
Substitutes: Elyounoussi (6), Obefemi (5).
Star Man - Stuart Armstrong has been finding it difficult to break into the Southampton starting XI so far this season, but he's now beginning to prove his quality in midfield.
He scored an outstanding brace and looked to be the Saints most effective player in the final third, combining sharp passes with elusive movement to great effect.
Stuart Armstrong has been fantastic today for the Saints— Kaleb 16-6-1 (@TKFurber92) November 24, 2018
That international break has done Stuart Armstrong the world of good, definitely carrying on his Scotland form for the Saints.— Paul (@84Paulski) November 24, 2018
Stuart Armstrong fulla confidence this weekend — Connor Huntergbsct (@ConnorHunter22) November 24, 2018
Worst Player - With Danny Ings out injured, the pressure was on Charlie Austin to lead the line for Southampton, but he failed to have any sort of impact on the game.It may have been because his teammates refused to play to his strengths, but his poor performance led to his withdrawal early on in the second half.
Time for Charlie Austin to retire— Saints Chants (@SFC_Chants) November 24, 2018
Fulham will now be preparing for a West London derby against their neighbours Chelsea, whilst Southampton will switch their attentions to a Carabao Cup tie against Leicester in midweek.
Source : 90min