Fulham produced a pulsating second half comeback to earn a magical 4-2 victory against Brighton on Tuesday evening.
After falling behind to a Glenn Murray first half brace all seemed lost for the Whites. However, an exhilarating revival saw four second half goals and three points remain in London. After a wonder strike from Calum Chambers shortly after the re-start, Aleksandar Mitrović scored two goals in quick succession before Luciano Vietto put the game beyond doubt in the 79th minute.
Claudio Ranieri named the same starting XI from the match that fell to a narrow and cruel defeat against Tottenham Hotspur 9 days ago at Craven Cottage. A day where snow and sub zero temperatures had been predicted at the time of kick-off it was torrential rain that greeted the players as they entered the Cottage Turf.
It was a disaster start for the Whites. In the 3rd minute Martin Montoya was allowed time and space to saunter down the right wing and swing in a dangerous cross. Before you could blink Murray had stolen a march on the Fulham defence and lashed an unstoppable drive into the bottom left-hand corner. Rico could do absolutely nothing in the Fulham net.
In the 17th minute it was a case of déjà vu for Fulham as Murray pounced to grab his second of the evening. The same right flank was flank exposed in the build-up to the goal. Another whipped cross was headed clear by Denis Odoi in the centre of the box. Pascal Groß was in a confident mood and attempted a bicycle kick. His effort lacked power but was on target and yet again Murray was there to take advantage in the box. With a flick of his right foot the ball was beyond Rico and nestling in the back of the net.
With the outlook looking bleak for the Whites the manager made a change in the 27th minute. Tom Cairney was brought on to replace Tim Ream, adding an extra body to the midfield.
In the 30th minute Ryan Babel came close to pulling a goal back. After enjoying a spell of possession in the Brighton half where we passed the ball about looking to exploit any opening the it was worked to the Dutchman. 30 yards from goal he let fly a well struck shot which looked destined for the bottom corner. Mat Ryan was equal to the effort and tipped it wide of the post.
Eight minutes later Babel turned provider. A perfectly weighted cross found André Schürrle unmarked at the back post and the German connected sweetly with his right foot. The ball flew beyond Ryan but Shane Duffy reacted well to hoick the goal bound shot over the bar and behind for a corner.
With Fulham showing endeavour the match was almost put to bed prior to half-time. Davy Pröpper was allowed time and space to unleash and vicious shot on target. The ball flew cannoned off the bar and hope remained for a second half revival.
After re-charging batteries and clearing minds it felt like the entire stadium was prepared to drive their team to recovery. And in the 47th minute we pulled one back.
A cross was lofted into the Brighton box and cleared. Positioned perfectly to deal with the clearance Chambers lurked with intent. Without hesitation the defensive midfielder belted an unstoppable right-footed volley into the top hand corner. Hope swelled and a fightback was on the cards.
It was all Fulham now and against all odds we were back level in the 58th minute. A frantic sequence of play culminated in a corner which was bundled clear by a nervy Seagulls back line. Calmly the ball was worked out to Babel on the right flank. Under no pressure the winger swung in a dangerous ball which was eluded everyone in the box and bounced up in a dangerous area. Showing the desire to outmuscle three Brighton players converging on the ball Mitro leapt like a salmon to head home.
Pure jubilation ensued and now the Whites were looking to press on for the win. And that third goal was cruelly denied by the base of the post in the 66th minute. Intricate build-up resulted in the ball eventually being fed out to an unmarked Seri on the edge of the Brighton box. The Ivorian picked his spot and look to place one in the bottom right hand corner. However, his shot cannoned off the base of the post and was cleared.
After a heart in mouth moment for the Whites where Rico was forced into a superb reaction save at one end we grabbed a deserved lead.
With the patience that had been on show since the restart the ball was pinged about until it lay kindly at the feet of Joe Bryan on the left hand side of the box. With the time to pick out his target man the wing back whipped in a delicious cross. Mitro was hungry for another goal and similar to the first goal he out jumped Lewis Dunk once more and directed a picture perfect header into the bottom corner.
Delirious celebrations ensued and before the crowd could let that goal sink in a fourth was added. Captain Tom Cairney, who had been the metronome at the heart of the Fulham revival lashed a shot off the bar as Ryan flapped in the Brighton net. With an instinct prod with his boot Babel crossed directly into the path of second half substitute Vietto who nodded into a vacant net.
A scintillating comeback from the Whites and what might be three vital points in our fight against relegation.
Line-up: Rico; Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream (Cairney 27′); Christie, Chambers, Seri, Bryan (Ryan Sessegnon 77′); Schürrle (Vietto 45′), Mitrovic, Babel
Unused substitutes: Bettinelli, Kebano, Cissé, Ayité
Brighton and Hove Albion
Line-up: Ryan; Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Groß (Andone 77′), Stephens, Pröpper; Solly March, Murray, Locadia (Knockaert 71′)
Unused substitutes: Button, Bruno, Burn, Kayal, Bissouma
Referee: Lee Probert