Fulham go top with comfortable win over Birmingham
Fulham returned to the top of the Sky Bet Championship table with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Birmingham at St Andrew’s.
Marco Silva’s side always looked in charge of the contest and two goals in each half backed up a dominant display.
Denis Odoi ended a three-year wait for a league goal as his 10th-minute header put the visiting team ahead, with Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 44th-minute penalty doubling Fulham’s advantage.
Impressive debutant Nathaniel Chalobah won the spot-kick, and the deadline-day signing from Watford played a key role in the game’s third goal.
The 26-year-old former Chelsea youngster cut open the Blues defence with a delightful pass which was finished off in equally clinical style by Harry Wilson in the 54th minute.
Wilson’s killer strike arrived just one minute after the introduction of Troy Deeney, and it was always going to be a mountainous task for the hosts to come back after that.
Mitrovic scored his second goal of the match after 83 minutes before Deeney opened his Birmingham account from the penalty spot with only three minutes remaining.
Wilson’s corner from the right found the head of Odoi, the Belgian right-back rising high above the Blues defence to direct a powerful header into the bottom left corner for the game’s first goal.
Fulham goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga was called into serious action for the first time midway through the opening period from Jeremie Bela’s free-kick, the Argentinian goalkeeper comfortably collecting the shot down to his left.
Former Liverpool forward Wilson had two sights of goal in the space of as many minutes late in the first-half – a shot from the left of the box blocked by Kristian Pedersen and a 20-yard half-volley saved low down by Matija Sarkic.
With half-time looming, Silva’s men doubled their advantage after Harlee Dean dragged back Chalobah, Mitrovic planting his spot-kick into the bottom left corner.
Wilson, who scored a hat-trick for loan club Cardiff on his last outing at St Andrew’s, slotted past Sarkic to make it 3-0.
Deeney’s arrival on the pitch had been given a triumphant ovation by the Birmingham supporters and he had chances to score before his late penalty, seeing one header tipped over by Gazzaniga and another close-range effort kept out by the keeper’s leg.
Lukas Jutkiewicz was also denied by a great Gazzaniga clawed stop before Mitrovic completed his brace following a neat one-two with Jean Michael Seri.
Fulham’s opening goalscorer Odoi turned from hero to villain, dragging back Deeney, and Birmingham’s new striker crashed his penalty straight down the middle of the goal.
In stoppage-time, Deeney had another header saved and Gary Gardner hit the crossbar as Lee Bowyer’s men mounted a late rally, but Fulham had already got the points sealed up.