Fulham scored three times in a sensational, five-minute spell at the City Ground as they came from behind to beat Nottingham Forest 3-2 and climb to sixth in the Premier League table.
Marco Silva’s side trailed to Taiwo Awoniyi’s early strike (11) as they went into the second half, but Tosin Adarabioyo’s powerful header from Willian’s corner (55)
sparked a stunning comeback.
Joao Palhinha put Fulham in front with a wonderful, first-time finish from just outside the Forest box (58) and the visitors immediately extended their lead when Harrison Reed fired home his first goal for the club from Bobby Decordova-Reid’s cross (60).
Forest pulled a goal back through substitute Lewis O’Brien (77) but could not muster an equaliser in the closing stages as they slumped to a fourth consecutive Premier League loss which keeps them in the relegation zone, seven points below their newly-promoted rivals.
How Forest slumped to familiar defeat
Forest welcomed Fulham to the City Ground a year to the day since Chris Hughton was sacked with the club sitting bottom of the Championship.
The subsequent turnaround under Steve Cooper has been remarkable and it seemed the club’s fans may have more reason to cheer when Awoniyi, one of their 22 summer signings, nodded home Ryan Yates’ flick from Morgan Gibbs-White’s corner.
Fulham mustered little in response in the first half, with Aleksandar Mitrovic largely nullified, save for one near-post header from a corner which forced a scrambling save from Dean Henderson.
But, for the second consecutive home game following their 3-2 loss to Bournemouth two weeks ago, Forest contrived to surrender a comfortable first-half lead on their way to a dispiriting defeat.
The damage was done in the space of just five minutes, with Palhinha’s goal, curled first-time into the top corner from Kenny Tete’s cut-back, the pick of Fulham’s quick-fire three.
Palhinha’s midfield partner Reed took his goal smartly too, after Andreas Pereira had played in Decordova-Reid down the left, the 27-year-old ghosting into the box and finding the net for the first time on what was his 81st Fulham appearance.
Cooper tried to rescue something from the game, throwing on Jesse Lingard and switching to a more attacking shape, but it was another substitute, O’Brien, who got them back into it when he slammed home following a Brennan Johnson cut-back.
That goal ensured a nervy finale for Fulham, with the visitors having to survive six minutes of stoppage time, but they held on to secure a win which continues their outstanding start to the season, leaving Forest to reflect on a defeat which feels all too familiar.
Cooper rues ‘self-inflicted’ defeat
Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper said: “I think a lot of it is self-inflicted. I don’t think we can just say things aren’t going our way.
“We just aren’t managing conceding the first goal very well. We want to keep a clean sheet, but when we do concede a goal we aren’t settled enough after it and there’s been a few occasions now where once one goes in, we look vulnerable and that was the case tonight.
“We took the lead and I thought we were okay in the first half. Fulham had more of the ball but we were fairly in control without the ball and I actually thought we started the second half really well. I told the lads they have to play a lot better.
“We’ve turned the ball over twice for the first two goals in areas that we shouldn’t do.
“We will look at ourselves first and see that we are not doing certain things in our game well.”
Silva: We were the better team
Fulham boss Marco Silva said: “We were the best team on the pitch and we deserved the three points. After their first goal, we took control of the match.
What a start to the second half. The intensity, we were much quicker and more dynamic as a team. I just told them to increase to be aggressive on the ball and we did it.
“It is a fantastic feeling for us, even if in the last few minutes we suffered a little bit. They didn’t create chances, but with the second goal they got a little bit of belief.
“But we controlled the game well and we deserved the three points. Congratulations to the players. They have been working really hard. They have been showing quality as well to match all the other sides at this level.”
Analysis: Palhinha proving his worth
Erling Haaland has killed any debate around the Premier League’s signing of the season but Fulham’s Joao Palhinha must be near the top of the list of those behind the free-scoring Norwegian.
The midfielder, a £20m addition from Sporting Lisbon in July, was instrumental in this 3-2 win over Forest, his stunning goal helping to clinch a victory which propelled them into the European places.
In conversation with Sky Sports last month, Marco Silva revealed Palhinha was primarily signed for his off-the-ball qualities and those qualities have been apparent all season. He has made more tackles (35) than any other Premier League player.
But the 27-year-old gives them plenty more than that.
Palhinha is also a considerable aerial threat, as he showed with his headed goal in Fulham’s 3-2 win over Brentford in August, and his strike against Forest, brilliantly executed from outside the box, showed he has the technique to match.
It is little wonder Silva moved swiftly to secure his signature following Fulham’s promotion and it will not be long until the rest of the Premier League start to take notice. Palhinha is proving his worth.
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