The sky turned pink at full-time over Craven Cottage as the boys from Brazil danced the samba to bring a little glitz and glamour to a grey February afternoon by the Thames.
Willan and Rodrigo Muniz were the catalysts for a Fulham win which lifted them above opponents Bournemouth as Marco Silva’s side won their first league game in 2024.
“I’m really pleased for him [Muniz],” said Silva. “When you have the chance you have to step in and when the chance is there you have to show your quality. He scored an important goal last week and this afternoon was probably his best performance in a Fulham shirt.
“When a striker in two games scores three goals, and not just the goals but the way he linked the game, it was really good to have him there. This is his third season for us but he is still really young and of course it is an emotional moment for him. Last season was not the best for him. We took the decision to send him out on loan (to Middlesbrough) and that loan didn’t work.”
Given the way these teams approach things, it was unsurprisingly an open, entertaining game. Fulham were in front after just five minutes when Bobby De Cordova-Reid capitalised on a slip by Lewis Cook to fire low into the corner from close range.
Willian was electric down the left and was denied a goal by Neto’s brilliant save after he had ghosted past Adam Smith. But soon it was Willian’s cross, headed back across goal, which saw Muniz score his first goal as he nipped in front of Illya Zabarnyi to score.
“I think we conceded too much at the beginning of the game and that’s why we ended with nothing,” said Andoni Iraola, whose team was much better in the second half.
“The first goal is a player that slips in a dangerous position but for the second we had the players to deal with the cross much better. We were not at the level the game required, then we did very good things but it was too late.”
A relentless second half began with the Cherries pulling a goal back in front of their supporters as Solanke headed down Marcus Tavernier’s corner to Marcos Senesi and the Argentine defender swivelled cleverly to score low into the net.
But within two minutes, Willian and Muniz were at it again as the former crossed to the latter who volleyed in crisply at the far post to restore the two-goal cushion.
“It was crucial to score the third goal straight away [after Bournemouth scored], said Silva. The visitors managed a total of 25 shots but couldn’t add to Senesi’s goal.