Fulham 1 Leeds 2: Bamford and Raphinha strike to keep Cottagers in relegation zone

PAT’S the way to prove him wrong.

Gareth Southgate labelled Patrick Bamford as “very unfortunate” not to have made his England squad this week.

The call had been “very close”, but in the end the Three Lions boss had opted for Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins instead.

Bamford could have been forgiven for feeling sorry for himself after a stellar campaign with Leeds.

But he shook off the snub by scoring one and making another to deal relegation-fighting Fulham a crushing blow here.

Bamford was at his clinical best as he fired his side in front just before the half hour, before Joachim Andersen’s header gave Fulham hope.

That was extinguished after the break though when Bamford’s perfectly-weighted pass was steered into the net by the electric Raphinha.

It sent Marcelo Bielsa and his staff wild in celebration on the touchline – and 50 miles down the road and Brighton there will have been cheers of joy too.

Newcastle are down in the seaside town to take on Graham Potter’s Albion on Saturday with both scrapping it out with Fulham to avoid that final relegation spot.

Parker will be praying for a draw from that game at the Amex now after back-to-back home defeats stunted their recent revival.

The Cottagers chief opted for two changes from last week’s 3-0 home humbling to Manchester City, bringing in Antonee Robinson and Josh Maja.

But one man he left on the bench was striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, despite revealing the Serb has been “banging his door down” to earn a recall of late.

Mitrovic outscored Bamford by ten goals in the Championship last season but their relative campaigns in the top flight have been like chalk and cheese.

Bamford has been a revelation, with his 14-goal tally in the league matched by his relentless work-rate and impressive hold-up play.

Mitrovic meanwhile has not scored since grabbing two at Elland Road all the way back in September and is still yet to convince he has the mobility for the highest level in England.

Leeds thought they had taken an early lead through a header Mitrovic would have been proud of.

Full-back Luke Ayling powered Tyler Robert’s delivery back across Alphonse Areola for what he thought was his first Premier League goal.

The 29-year-old, namechecked this week by Gareth Southgate, celebrated by untying his man-bun and letting his long hair down.


But once again that pesky VAR played its part, adjuding Robets to have been fractionally offside via a leaning shoulder in the build-up and the goal was chalked off.

Parker breathed a sigh of relief, before bawling at Ademola Lookman for losing his marker.

Leeds had the ball in the net again soon after through Raphinha but this time the offside was far more clear cut.

The visitors were dominating but had Ayling and their goalkeeper Ilian Meslier to thank as they narrowly avoided falling behind on 27 minutes.

A penalty-box scramble ended with Maja firing a shot on the half-turn which Meslier got a strong hand to – but it took Ayling to clear to stop it from rolling over the line.

Bamford had been limping just before that in what must have been a scare to Marcelo Bielsa on the touchline.

But the striker shook off any discomfort to fire Leeds ahead on the half hour, clinically dispatching Jack Harrison’s cross as he beat Tosin Adarabioyo to the punch.

Tosin’s central-defensive partner Andersen did his best to bail him out though, as eight minutes later the Fulham skipper headed home Lookman’s corner for his first goal for the club.

It was the 15th league goal Leeds had conceded from a set-piece this season, which is unsurprisingly the worst record in the top flight.

Fulham almost went ahead straight as Frank Anguissa let fly from the edge of the area but was brilliantly denied by Meslier.

But despite their strong finish to the half, Parker knew his side had been second best for the first period and responded by bringing on Mitrovic for Maja at the break.

Yet it was Leeds who came roaring back and after Harrison had a warning shot repelled by Alphonse Areola, they restored the lead just before the hour.

Bamford picked up a loose ball after Kalvin Phillips’s full-blooded challenge dispossessed Mario Lemina.

The forward sidestepped a rash sliding challenge from Andersen and rolled through Raphinha who finished with lethal precision.

After that, Fulham looked a beaten team and one that Parker will have to lift for the final eight games of the campaign.

As for Bamford, his brilliant season continues.

Southgate today may well be having second thoughts.

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