Aleksandar Mitrovic sparks Fulham’s comeback win over struggling Leeds


As recently as Friday the message from the Leeds boardroom was that the club’s directors remained determined to keep faith with Jesse Marsch but such resolve is now being subjected to an intense stress test.

Marsch’s side endured a fourth successive Premier League defeat here, extending their winless run to eight games and sinking into the bottom three. The American met the final whistle by walking on to the pitch and applauding those home supporters still in the ground yet he found himself greeted by loud boos mixed with alternate chants of “sacked in the morning” and “sack the board”.

Small wonder the Leeds manager had described this visit from Marco Silva’s upwardly mobile Fulham as a “big, big game”, adding that his players were “motivated and angry” following their 2-0 defeat at Leicester last Thursday. “We want to put things right,” he said.

Although the afternoon featured a mass exodus of home fans well before the final whistle as an impressively fluent Fulham climbed to seventh, it certainly looked as if Leeds were on something of a mission as they kicked off at a ferociously high tempo.

Not for the first time appearances deceived, though; it proved no coincidence that the first real chance fell to Fulham. When Antonee Robinson crossed from the left, Aleksandar Mitrovic flicked on and Harrison Reed shot right‑footed, leaving Marc Roca to make an important block on the line.

Then, just as the first murmurs of anxiety and mutterings of discontent began rippling around Elland Road, Leeds scored. Brenden Aaronson played Jack Harrison in and his right‑wing cross-shot struck Tim Ream’s leg, sending the ball arcing upwards to the point where Rodrigo was able to direct a header beyond Bernd Leno.

Marsch had spent much of the early part of game standing in his trademark alpha male touchline stance, legs planted wide apart, but, most untypically, the he did not celebrate that opener. Instead he stood impassively, suggesting this was not quite the right moment to jump for joy with characteristically extravagant abandon. Such circumspection looked wise once Aleksandar Mitrovic equalised. The Serbia striker was outstanding throughout, linking play superbly, and his ninth Premier League goal in 11 games arrived after he sneaked in front of Luke Ayling to connect with Andreas Pereira’s corner and head Fulham level.

The look on Illan Meslier’s face suggested the Leeds goalkeeper thought he should have saved it but the Frenchman subsequently proved more than equal to the danger when the otherwise excellent Pereira shot straight at him after being put clean through by Willian’s clever counter-attacking pass.

Marsch’s side were ceding control of a midfield in which the 20‑year‑old Sam Greenwood, a former striker, had been drafted into an anchoring role in place of the injured Tyler Adams and the general mood turned correspondingly fractious.

Perhaps responding to the heat generated by a series of niggling on‑pitch altercations allied to the increasingly edgy home support, Silva removed his coat, revealing a smartly understated black polo neck jumper beneath.

Fulham’s manager must have had reason for quiet satisfaction as Leeds lost a further degree of discipline with Liam Cooper booked for an unnecessary foul on Pereira.

It would surely have been worse for Marsch had the Brazil international scored when one on one against Meslier but he already had more than enough to worry about at the end of a half in which Leno had barely been exerted and only Luis Sinisterra looked like really troubling Silva’s defence.

There was a distinct lack of inventive attacking movement from Leeds and, shortly after the hour, Marsch endeavoured to correct it by replacing Rodrigo with Patrick Bamford.

Before Bamford – a once talismanic striker now struggling for full fitness – could make an impact, Fulham were ahead. This time, another Pereira corner was only partially cleared and the ball ended up falling kindly for Silva’s £10m summer signing from Manchester United to cross in the direction of the entirely unmarked Bobby De Cordova‑Reid. Making the very best of such defensive generosity, the latter duly headed past Meslier, leaving Marsch standing with hands on hips and staring grimly at his shoes.

Fulham’s third goal, slid in left‑footed by Willian after Reed’s pullback deconstructed the Leeds backline, proved the cue for a mass exit of home fans accompanied by a soundtrack of boos. By now Silva’s players were en route to clinching a fifth league win of the season and the albeit half-hearted early second-half choruses of “Marching on Together” seemed to belong to a different, altogether more optimistic, era in West Yorkshire.

Although two substitutes, Crysencio Summerville and Joe Gelhardt, combined for Summerville to reduce the deficit in the 90th minute, Mitrovic, Pereira and friends had already left Leeds, and their manager, badly wounded.

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Marta Lopez

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