This was like the EFL Championship on steroids. Last year’s second-tier champions Fulham deserved their victory over the playoff winners, Nottingham Forest, after a three-goal burst in six second-half minutes. Forest lost a fourth successive Premier League game on the night Premier League football returned after the Queen’s death.
The fact Aleksandar Mitrovic did not celebrate his 28th birthday with a goal shows there is strength in depth behind Fulham’s feared No 9. These are worrying times for Forest, however, as they try to get their 22 summer signings to gel.
Tosin Adarabioyo, Palhinha and Harrison Reed scored Fulham’s goals in five minutes and 18 seconds, the Premier League’s fastest three goals since Arsenal scored three in four minutes and 45 seconds in a 3-3 draw with Liverpool in December 2017.
Once again, as against Bournemouth, Forest led at the interval; once again against promoted rivals they let the lead slip. As Fulham climbed to sixth in the table, Steve Cooper’s team remain rooted in the relegation zone. It is all very well spending around £150m on an entire new squad but at some stage pretty soon they really will need to get to know each other.
Fulham had also been the better team in the first half when Forest led through Taiwo Awoniyi. Lewis O’Brien’s late goal ensured an exciting finale but the away side deserved their third victory of the season.
“Even when they scored, I thought we were in control of the game,” Silva said. “We had a chat at half-time and said we keep things the same but do them quicker. It was fantastic; the way we came back was fantastic.
“The table is not the most important thing; it is the way we are performing. I’m really pleased with the way we are playing.”
The City Ground failed to manage a minute’s silence for Queen Elizabeth II, evidence perhaps of why the postponement of all games last weekend was the correct decision. The game itself had the feel of a significant opportunity for both. The fare was feisty, in an old-fashioned kind of way, tackles and tempers flaring in a spiky first half.
Morgan Gibbs-White, who had earned a corner when his shot at the near post was deflected behind, whipped a ball in that Ryan Yates, captain in the absence of Joe Worrall, flicked on, and the recalled Awoniyi headed home his second goal since his £17m move from Union Berlin.
The in-form Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored twice in a 4-0 win here last season, marauded in down the inside-right channel a couple of times as he sought to become the first Fulham player to score in five successive Premier League games.
That area of the pitch was a rich furrow for Fulham to plough and Willian, on his full debut for the visitors, had plenty of joy. Forest were the first Premier League side to be on the end of 100 shots this season and Dean Henderson, their on-loan goalkeeper, showed why he deserves his England call-up as he parried Mitrovic’s header and repelled Tete’s shot at the foot of his near post just before half-time.
Fulham took control in the early stages of the second half, however, and Forest did not know what had hit them. “It’s self-inflicted again,” Cooper said. “Some of our game is positive and looks like we’re progressing. But there’s other parts where we do look like a new team, there’s no doubt about that.
“That moment of conceding goals is when you need to regroup and stay together. That comes with an experienced team of being together, with connections on the pitch. That’s something we don’t have, for the nature of how the squad’s been put together and the timing of it. We don’t have that.”
Adarabioyo, cleverly losing Yates thanks to Mitrovic’s block, headed home Willian’s corner in the 54th minute. Then, after more good work by Willian, Palhinha emerged on the edge of the area to side-foot Tete’s pull-back into the top corner.
Forest had not had a chance to come to terms with the game’s changing dynamic when Reed also made a late run from midfield to score his first goal for the club from Bobby Decordova-Reid’s cross from the left wing following Mitrovic’s superb pass from the halfway line.
Cooper went for broke with his attacking substitutions and Lewis O’Brien raised home hopes when he slammed home from 15 yards after Adarabioyo could only nudge Brennan Johnson’s right-wing cross into his path. “It’s one thing being patient but at the same time we’ve got to start picking up points,” Cooper acknowledged.