Fulham 4-2 Burnley: Aleksandar Mitrovic scores twice in Premier League thriller
Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic praised his team’s “brave” performance as Fulham secured their first victory since returning to the Premier League in an eventful match against Burnley.
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice for the hosts as they recovered from losing their first two matches to leave their opponents without a league win this season.
“We scored four goals and showed we could be a brave, attacking team,” Jokanovic said. “It’s an important step for us and we are satisfied with many things.”
Jean Michael Seri, signed from Nice in July, gave Jokanovic’s men the perfect start by firing a wonderful 25-yard strike into the top-right corner of Joe Hart’s goal after just four minutes.
Burnley drew level in the 10th minute as Jeff Hendrick converted at the second attempt after good work from Aaron Lennon down the right flank, but a cleverly worked corner allowed Mitrovic to head the home side back in front on 36 minutes, as Tom Cairney’s perfectly weighted cross from the edge of the area found the alert Serb.
Seeking another quick response, the Clarets were caught on the break two minutes later, as Mitrovic beat Stephen Ward in the air to glance beyond Hart – though the visitors were able to half their deficit before the break through James Tarkowski.
Mitrovic missed numerous chances to complete his hat-trick in a much quieter second half and agonisingly struck the post before Schurrle converted the rebound to add Fulham’s fourth with seven minutes remaining.
“We are improving, definitely. We know a huge job is ahead of us and we must keep going,” added Jokanovic.
“This is most competitive league in the world and this is not going to be an easy job for us.”
Lift-off for Fulham
With the knowledge that their opponents have been stretched by European engagements, the Cottagers seized their opportunity to kick-start their season in style with a first Premier League victory since April 2014.
After two defeats, Jokanovic’s attempts to gel Fulham’s new and old saw him hand a first start to Atletico Madrid loanee Luciano Vietto in a side consisting of seven summer additions.
They began with purpose, taking the game to slow-starting Burnley and Seri’s superb strike set the tone as Fulham demonstrated quality across their side – with the Ivorian himself at the heart of the hosts’ good play.
Fulham enjoyed more than two-thirds of the possession in the first half and both Schurrle and the lively Timothy Fosu-Mensah had attempts that, though unable to trouble Hart, offered warnings to Burnley.
But Mitrovic, now with three goals in as many Premier League games since signing permanently from Newcastle, looks as if he will be vital for Jokanovic’s side, proving a constant nuisance to Tarkowski and Ben Mee – though he should have added even more to his tally.
Fulham’s heavy investment in high-quality players over the close season – a reported £100m across 12 additions – suggests that, although survival is an obvious priority, continuing to play positively is also high on the agenda.
They demonstrated their ability to do so here very effectively.
“It’s an important step for us. We showed it is possible and we are satisfied with many things,” Jokanovic said.
“We know after the first two defeats it’s not easy for us to find the right way. There is room for improvement and we need to push harder on the training ground.”
Burnley’s tough start continues
Following a 3-1 loss to Watford last weekend, Burnley’s midweek Europa League play-off defeat by Olympiakos in Greece by the same score raised further questions over the Clarets’ capacity to successfully balance European and domestic competition.
They extended their winless run in the league to eight matches with defeat at Fulham, and have now conceded 10 goals in their past three in all competitions despite surrendering just four in six previous to that.
Sean Dyche reverted to the same side that had contested Burnley’s opening two Premier League fixtures, a total of six changes from Thursday night, but the Clarets conceded early for a second league game on the bounce.
There has been plenty made of Burnley’s busy schedule, but they now face an uphill task if they are to reach the Europa League group stages, and exiting that competition will only increase pressure on their league performances.
“It’s about working hard as well as smart,” said Dyche.
“The players have been peppered with messages of ‘it’s too much being in the Europa League’. You can’t make excuses because everyone wanted that challenge at the club.”
Once again Dyche’s men showed spirit to respond positively to going behind, pulling back to 3-2 just before half-time when Tarkowski converted from close range.
But spirit was far from enough to deny a lively Fulham side, who peppered Hart’s goal in the closing stages as the Clarets saw their winless record away to promoted sides extend to 10 games.
Man of the match – Aleksandar Mitrovic
‘We can’t make excuses’ – what they said
Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic: “It was a tough game. Every goal is a nice goal and a great feeling but the most important thing is we grab the three points and give the fans a nice afternoon.
“We have so many new players. They came from different leagues and some don’t speak English but this is the best league, we want to stay with the best and we will work hard to do that.
“No matter what we do, we will stick to our system and that will give us more confidence to stay in this league.”
Burnley manager Sean Dyche: “Fulham had a good season last season but they have added some quality. It was a fair shift of money. But I thought they were the better side overall. They had the best player on the pitch in Mitrovic.
“Things aren’t going our way with injuries. We didn’t get as many in in the market as we’d like to help us across two competitions. We have to concentrate on what’s in front of us and that’s the next game.”
Mitrovic fares well against Hart – the stats
- Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 15 league goals since his Fulham debut in February – and only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah can match that total in that time across the top four tiers of English football.
- Four of Mitrovic’s 13 Premier League goals have been scored against Joe Hart, having also scored for Newcastle in October 2015 against Manchester City and West Ham.
- Burnley goalkeeper Hart has conceded at least three goals in five of the past past six Premier League games he has played in the month of August, conceding 17 in total.
- Since a run of five consecutive Premier League wins between March and April, Burnley have collected just three points from three draws in eight league games.
- After failing to score with any of his first 24 shots in the Premier League, Burnley defender James Tarkowski has scored with two of his last three in the competition.
Fulham host Exeter City in the League Cup on Tuesday (19:45 BST), followed by a trip to Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday (15:00 BST).
Burnley host Olympiakos in the second leg of their Europa League play-off on Thursday (19:45 BST) before Manchester United visit Turf Moor in the Premier League on Sunday (16:00 BST).