Leeds United’s search for a first away win of 2018 goes on after they were beaten 2-0 by promotion hopefuls Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Paul Heckingbottom’s men were second best in the opening half and fortunate to only go in one down to an admittedly lucky goal, but they gave it a good go after the break and the game hinged on 14 crucial seconds midway through.
With Leeds coming on stronger Caleb Ekuban was sent clean through by Pablo Hernandez only to see his shot saved by home keeper Marcus Bettinelli. Fulham then broke straight up the other end and Tom Cairney’s pass gave Aleksandar Mitrovic the chance he needed to make it 2-0.
Although United kept going to the final whistle this was not their night and it was summed up when they had to play the last four minutes plus five minutes of added time with 10 men after Matthew Pennington had to leave the field injured with the Whites having made all three of their substitutions.
Leeds started with some intent as Stuart Dallas got forward from right-back to fire a shot over in the opening minute.
But the game soon settled into a pattern of Fulham domination. Their first chance fell to Mitrovic, but he could only drag his effort wide from Matt Targett’s pull back. Floyd Ayite then hit the post from a tight angle after meeting Ryan Sessegnon’s low cross and moments later Mitrovic was left free from a corner only to see his header saved by Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Just when it seemed that Leeds were settling into the game they conceded as Mitrovic met another corner with a header and the ball went into the net off Kevin McDonald’s backside with the Fulham player knowing nothing about it.
United did not fold on this occasion and managed only their second effort of the half when Gaetano Berardi volleyed over after meeting a dipping corner.
The second half saw Leeds more on the front foot although they were lucky when Sessegnon’s goalbound shot was kept out of the net when the ball hit Mitrovic.
Sessegnon was denied again as his shot was well saved by Peacock-Farrell.
Ronaldo Vieira hit a 30-yard shot well wide at the other end before the pivotal 63rd minute that somehow ended with the hosts scoring after it looked like United were about to get level.
Ryan Fredericks fired a shot into the side netting, but that was the last threat offered by Fulham as Leeds put in a spirited finish.
They should have pulled a goal back on 78 minutes when Samuel Saiz’s exquisite chip in picked out substitute Jay-Roy Grot, but the striker somehow managed to head over an open goal from five yards out.
Vieira kept plugging away in midfield and got forward to hit a 20-yard shot that was easily saved by Bettinelli.
One last chance was presented in injury-time, but Hernandez’s free-kick from just outside the box drifted just wide with the Fulham keeper well beaten.
(McDonald 33, Mitrovic 63)
Leeds United 0
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Sky Bet Championship
Fulham: Bettinelli, Fredericks, Odol, Ream, Targett, Johansen, McDonald (Kalas 88), Cairney, Ayite (Norwood 66), Sessegnon, Mitrovic.
Referee: Peter Bankes.