Report: Birthday boy Mitrovic provides the knock-out blow to Town in cup
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town 0 Fulham 1 Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrated his 26th birthday in style by netting the only goal of the game, as Fulham eased past Ipswich Town and into the third round of the Carabao Cup this evening.
Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrated his 26th birthday in style by netting the only goal of the game, as Fulham eased past Ipswich Town and into the third round of the Carabao Cup this evening.
The experienced Mitrovic gave Town keeper David Cornell no chance with a bullet header in the 39th minute, following a delightful cross by man-of-the-match Kenny Tete, a Dutch right-back.
Although that proved to be the only goal of the game, played inside an empty and eerie Portman Road due to the Covid-19 restrictions, in truth League One Town never really looked like finding their way back into this tie.
Fulham, promoted to the Premier League via the play-offs at the end of last season, were a class above their hosts.
There was no lack of effort from Paul Lambert’s men, but they rarely threatened an equaliser, and so it is Fulham who will entertain Sheffield Wednesday in round three.
Town showed seven changes from the side that won on the opening day of their League One campaign, 2-0 against visiting Wigan Athletic.
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The four to retain their places in the starting XI were centre-halves James Wilson and Toto Nsiala, plus the midfield duo of Andre Dozzell and Jon Nolan.
It was a special night for Nsiala, who was given a rare chance to captain the team. Regular skipper Luke Chambers was on the bench, while other skipper candidates Stephen Ward and Cole Skuse were both being rested.
Up top, there was a full debut for Oli Hawkins, a summer recruit from Portsmouth, while it was Albanian winger Armando Dobra’s first competitive outing of the season.
A notable name on the bench was Flynn Downes, who was included in the squad for the first time since the midfielder had requested a transfer following two failed bids by Crystal Palace, three weeks ago.
Fulham had kicked off their Premier League campaign with a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of London rivals Arsenal on Saturday.
Star striker Mitrovic, who had sat out that game due to a lack of training after his recent international commitments with Serbia, was included in the starting line-up.
And boss Scott Parker chose to include several of his many summer signings in the team, including keeper Alponse Aerola, secured on a season-long loan from Paris St Germain after spending last season on loan at Real Madrid.
Dutch right-back Tete, ex-Wigan defender Antonee Robinson and Southampton midfield loanee Mario Lemina were also given a chance to shine following their recent arrivals.
The Cottagers came close to breaking the deadlock inside the first minute as Antony Knockaert blazed over the bar from an excellent position, and Knockaert also ballooned a 20-yarder over the bar on eight minutes as Town were forced to soak up some early pressure.
There was almost a spectacular opening goal in the ninth minute, Frank Anguissa connecting sweetly with a thunderous volley from a corner kick. The ball flew only just wide of the near upright, with keeper David Cornell rooted to the spot.
Town struggled to make any headway early on. Lone striker Hawkins did home in goal on the quarter-hour mark, but the assistant referee had already raised his flag for offside before he could register a telling shot.
The home side’s first real opportunity arrived in the 27th minute. Gwion Edwards managed to square in the direction of a closely-marked Hawkins, who squeezed a shot wide from the edge of the six-yard box.
Otherwise, Fulham continued to press and it was no real surprise when they finally broke the deadlock in the 39th minute, thanks to Mitrovic’s unstoppable header.
Right-back Tete did the damage with a surging run down the flank, and his pinpoint cross was met by an unmarked Mitrovic, who headed firmly into the roof of the net.
And Mitrovic almost netted a second, just two minutes before half-time, when he managed to shake off the attentions of skipper Nsiala and stab in a close-range shot which Cornell did well to block for a corner.
Either side of half-time, Emyr Huws sliced a 25-yarder well wide of target, before setting up Hawkins with a 53rd minute cross which the striker headed wide from a promising position.
Downes replaced Dozzell in the 57th minute, and just seconds later Cornell made a superb double save to thwart both Mitrovic and Bobby De Cordova-Reid from point blank range. Cornell also did well to divert a goalbound shot by substitute Tom Cairney over his bar on 71 minutes.
Town struggled to even threaten an equaliser during the final quarter of the game, although Edwards at least forced a save out of Alphonse Aerola in stoppage time.
IPSWICH: Cornell, Donacien, Nsiala, Wilson, Kenlock, Dozzell (sub Downes, 57), Nolan (sub Judge, 68), Huws, Edwards, Dobra, Hawkins (sub Norwood, 68). Unused subs: Holy, Chambers, Bishop, Sears.
FULHAM: Aerola, Tete (sub Bryan, 81), Le Marchand, Odoi, Robinson, Lemina (sub Cairney, 63), Anguissa (sub Reed, 69), Kebano, Knockaert, Cordova-Reid, Mitrovic. Unused subs: Ramirez, Hector, Cavaleiro, Francois.
Referee: Dean Whitestone