At long last, Fulham finally got the better of Bournemouth for the first time since 2019 and as Cam pens another rosy write-up, we can say that the prize at the end of the rainbow was indeed three precious, precious points. Who needs a pot o’ gold when the Whites are back in the goals?
Brazilian braced for action
I am going to eat my words with a whopping slice of humble pie here. Much has been said about Rodrigo Muniz since he joined the Whites in 2021, I’ve been less than supportive of him and I think past criticisms were justified, but this version of the dancing Brazilian is promising and now he’s netted three goals in two starts, I feel I am almost dutybound to get behind him for the remainder of the season, and beyond.
Clearly, the love and support Marco Silva and his coaching staff have pledged to Muniz is paying off in an extremely good way. This is a striker that has seriously knuckled down, he is working on himself both on and off the pitch and he was too hot to handle up top for the Whites on matchday 24.
He played a major part in our first of the afternoon, his runs have evolved from linear to multi-dimensional and as he screeched past Bournemouth’s defenders with a diagonal burst, he tamed possession and set the cat amongst the pigeons with a low drove across the box, and that is where we made the most of the Cherries’ sloppiness.
At Burnley, the 22-year-old’s hold-up play was sturdy and it was no different at home. Marcos Senesi and Lloyd Kelly were occupied relentlessly by Rodrigo, he climbed for every aerial duel that came his way, he flicked play on and chested it down with a motive and in the danger area, praying on sudden defensive lapses, he smelt blood and went for the throat.
His first goal was prodded past Neto with a poacher’s instinct and his second was diverted by his own design. I particularly admire his confidence as he secured his brace, he held his hand aloft at the back post to attract Willian’s attention, he peeled off without a trace and he stuck it away with cold conviction. Chef’s kiss. Nevertheless, both were proper striker’s finishes, he did everything that was expected of him in the areas he dropped into and hopefully, this will be the catalyst for much, much more from him in front of the target.
Armando Broja has his work cut out if he’s going to oust Rodrigo from the starting XI. With Carlos Vinicius out of the picture and Raul Jimenez nursing injury, he now has space to grow and room to breathe, he may still be a little rough around the edges but he has shown that there’s a very useful hitman within him, and if he can unlock that potential for good, he will become a firm favourite in Fulham colours for years to come. That, needless to say, is precisely what we all want for him.
Elder statesmen stand out
We may have one of, if not the oldest average squad age in the league but having a wealth of experience and knowhow at our disposal isn’t a weakness. Three elder statesmen in our ranks were counted for and their efforts stood out, not one of them is over the hill and neither of them were killed off by Bournemouth’s youthful exuberance and these old dogs of our, Tim Ream, Tom Cairney and Willian, are still learning new tricks.
Alongside Issa Diop, Ream was assertive and he held Dominic Solanke on an extremely tight leash. He didn’t give the goal-happy striker an inch and when he had to get up close and personal, he was an unshakable space invader. At 36 and out of regular match practice due to injury and indeed Calvin Bassey, many doubted that the USMNT defender could still call the shots in the Premier League but he was well on top on Saturday, and it was his cunning interception that sparked the move for Bobby Decordova-Reid’s smart opener. A few weeks back I said that I’d be more than happy if Tim came back into the fold and he didn’t do himself a disservice, in fact, he’s still as dependable as ever.
Centrally, just ahead of Ream, Cairney demanded possession, it had to pass through his discretion before it was dispatched elsewhere and I know he isn’t as senior as others in the camp but at 33, he’s meant to be entering his twilight years but he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Progressive midfielders of his nature tend to tail off at the career stage Tom’s currently at but he was magnificent, he wasn’t left behind within a frantic midfield third, he was the one that led the way and I cannot begin to tell you just how much I adore that silky first touch of his. It belongs to be here, in the glamour of SW6 and top-flight football and even with a bloodied and bruised nose, he was still a smouldering 10 out of 10 performer.
And then, we have Willian Borges da Silva. Involved in two of Fulham’s three goals on the day, Willian’s effect on proceedings was apparent from the start, right up until he was replaced by Adama Traore in the 85th minute. Another true master of his craft, the 35-year-old Brazilian manipulated Bournemouth’s formation with his incisive, shape-splitting movement, his ability to shift the ball from one foot to the other makes him a nightmare for full-backs to mark and Adam Smith found that out the hard way. With his head up, he launched two superb crosses into the mixer, one in each half and on both occasions, the Whites capitalised. Tried and tested expertise in motion, and when his sidestep really springs into life, he’s a genuine menace.
There’s no way these three are finished. They’re all familiar with the everchanging trends of modern football and most importantly, they all know their personal worth in Silva’s system. This is a trio that were really at it against the Cherries, a stalwart on a mission to protect, a skipper that set the midfield standard and former Selecao maestro with timeless vision. Never write them off.
Castagne’s 100% commitment
A lot of praise has been heaped on Antonee Robinson is recent weeks, and rightly so, but what of Timothy Castagne? Our summer signing’s managed to keep Kenny Tete out of contention, which is no easy feat, and his defensive alertness, as well as his offensive supportiveness, was crucial to Fulham’s stability along the right and at one key phase in the second half, his sharpness spared blushes at the back.
The Cherries thrust play forward, they were marginally ahead in a fast-paced footrace and as Bernd Leno charged out of his penalty area, narrowly missing both man and ball before it was all too late, the visitors could’ve found themselves with an open net to hit but Castagne didn’t stand by and watch on with a digit up a nostril. The Belgian sensed serious danger and as any decent defender should, he got himself goal side and stamped it out, no nonsense, no excuses and it was greeted by the fans with amplified appreciation.
There’s rarely a game where Timmy doesn’t give 100%, actually. He may not be as defensively sound as Tete in certain areas but he’s a willing competitor that trusts himself, he’s fallible every so often but his commitment has always been honest and against Luis Sinisterra, a winger that’s tough to track and pin down, he stuck to his guns to suppress the Colombia international and his overall input didn’t go unnoticed.
Welcome back, Adama!
We’ve only caught slight glimpses of Traore this season – his last outing in black and white was at Villa Park, mid-November – and with just five minutes of scheduled time remaining on Saturday, he finally, finally returned to action. This, for obvious squad depth reasons, is enormously important. I’d almost forgotten entirely about Traore, and a player of his frightening power and stature should never be peripheral.
He wasn’t on the pitch long enough to really have an impact of any sort, but the sight of him alone was enough to rouse the crowd and as it always has been for the bulging Spaniard, having him ready and available for selection is highly advantageous. The problem is, can he actually stay fit? A team with Adama in it is far stronger, literally, than a team that doesn’t and while he isn’t a fine-tuned finisher or an elusive secret wing weapon, his impact is ballistic, his presence is intimidating and when we need that extra burst of risk and reward, we can always rely on Johnson and Johnson’s beefed up spokesman.
Rapid response squad
Throughout the second half, Bournemouth were searching for a route back into the game and after mounting endless pressure at set-pieces and corners, they eventually found it through Senesi. With a precarious single-goal lead, the Whites had to react as quickly as possible if they were going to stem the visitors’ flow and almost instantaneously, our rapid response crushed the Cherries’ enthusiasm.
Though it wasn’t always smooth sailing heading into the latter stages, restoring our two-goal lead in the manner of which we did was a massive show of intent, we weren’t to submit as we did at Turf Moor just a week ago and there’s nothing more satisfying than silencing an away following within a matter of moments of the restart.
There were warning signs from Bournemouth. Andoni Iraola’s side knocked it about well, they were a constant threat in the air but there was no such thing as an unceremonious caving in from Silva’s men. If they’d have laced up their shooting boots they’d probably have salvaged a point but they weren’t banking on Fulham’s quickfire reply and against a side that always, always causes us issues, the Whites’ staunch show of backbone as the visitors forged a short-lived foothold couldn’t have been timed any better.
No real complaints here
As above, I’ve nothing really to moan about so I guess I’ll open the floor for suggestions. If you’ve anything to add, help yourself because I haven’t got the energy to reach!