Derby County abruptly ended Fulham’s promotion to the Premier League as they came from behind to claim a crucial win that kept their own faint hopes of relegation alive.
Fulham were on their way to victory which would have secured an instant return to the top flight thanks to Fabio Carvalho’s well-made opener with five games to go.
But 19-year-old Luke Plange equalized for the hosts five minutes into the second period, before Fulham defender Tosin Adarabioyo converted a Tom Lawrence cross into his own net.
Realistically, the result is unlikely to change the narrative of the campaign as Fulham still need just three points to progress and a single loss in the Rams’ last four games will mean Reading need just one point, to bring Derby down.
But ahead of potential new owner Chris Kirchner, the result underscored the fight to remain at a club that should give manager Wayne Rooney some much-needed stability over the next few weeks to build for the future.
The first consecutive defeat this season is a huge disappointment for Fulham – and that defeat will hurt because it looked so unlikely for 45 minutes.
Without ever having been at their best, Marco Silva’s men had too much for their hosts.
Carvalho’s finish at the end of a one-two with Bobby Decordova-Reid showed why Jurgen Klopp is keen to bring the Portuguese youngster to Liverpool and he would have had two had Ryan Allsop not been an excellent save.
Allsop fended off 38-goal Aleksandar Mitrovic with a flying save after half-time and the Serb was disallowed a goal for offside when he pocketed the rebound after Carvalho’s shot hit the base of a post.
By this point, Derby had equalized as Plange finished a flowing move that also involved local pair Liam Thompson and Lee Buchanan.
The derby winner was somewhat lucky but Plange deserves credit for putting pressure on Tosin.
In a frenetic final, Malcolm Ebiowei tested Marek Rodak with a long-range shot before Harrison Reid had to deflect an injury-time shot while Derby defied to secure a memorable triumph.
Wayne Rooney, Derby County Manager:
“We knew it was going to be a tough game, but I believed we would win.
“When I saw Reading score a goal at the last minute (to win at Sheffield United) you were concerned that young players would be watching and it would sap their energy.
“But I felt at half-time that if we had more confidence we would win. The character of the players is incredible to go out and score the two goals.
“We pushed a little higher and they really struggled with that. Liam Thompson was great. It was a must, luckily we made it.
“I want my team to be a reflection of myself. I can see in the players’ eyes that they look a little down at halftime in a lot of games this season.
“The mentality is what I’m most proud of. That’s the hardest thing to teach.
“But we have to change the form away from home if we want any chance of staying up. It will be a tough game (at QPR) but we have to win.”
Fulham coach Marco Silva:
“Our first half was good and in the second half we expected a reaction and it was important for us to control the game and we made a mistake.
“We had chances to win. We’re at the top of this league for a reason, but we lost our focus. We need to improve.
“Two losses in a row for the first time this season, it’s not a question of focus. Tonight we had to be more aggressive. We had to stop attacks with tactical fouls.
“We knew before the game it was going to be emotional. We knew what would happen with three points. Derby’s pressure is much harder. Our print is the most beautiful print.
“But if we want to play in the Premier League we have to manage the pressure.”
- 31allsopBooked at 89 minutes
- 41collect90 minutes booked
- 5BielikReplaced bySibleyat the 84′protocol
- 42ThompsonBooked at 33 minutesReplaced byEboseleat the 72′protocol
- 32EbioweiReplaced byrichardsat the 90+7′protocol
- 10LaurentiusBooked at 61 minutes
- 1A native
- 20N WilliamsReplaced byMuniz Carvalhoat the 81′protocol
- 16As a matter of fact
- 23Bryan90 minutes booked
- 10cairneyReplaced byserialat the 72′protocol
- 8thWilsonReplaced bykebanoat the 72′protocol
- 14By Cordova-Reid
- 19Muniz Carvalho
- Robert Jones
Game ends, Derby County 2, Fulham 1.
Second half ends, Derby County 2, Fulham 1.
Substitution, Derby County. Carlos Peliza Richards replaces Malcolm Ebiowei.
Joe Bryan (Fulham) is yellow carded for a bad foul.
Foul by Joe Bryan (Fulham).
Festy Ebosele (Derby County) wins a free kick on the right wing.
attempt saved. Tosin Adarabioyo (Fulham) header from the center of the box is saved in the center of the goal. Assisted by Aleksandar Mitrovic with a header.
Corner of Fulham. Cashed in by Ryan Allsop.
attempt saved. Harrison Reed (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the center of the goal.
attempt blocked. Rodrigo Muniz (Fulham) right footed shot from the center of the box is blocked.
attempt saved. Rodrigo Muniz (Fulham) right footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the center of the goal.
Hand ball by Fabio Carvalho (Fulham).
Corner of Fulham. Cashed in by Eiran Cashin.
Eiran Cashin (Derby County) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Rodrigo Muniz (Fulham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Eiran Cashin (Derby County).
attempt saved. Malcolm Ebiowei (Derby County) right footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Lukas Plange.
Ryan Allsop (Derby County) is yellow carded.
attempt failed. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham) header from the center of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Neeskens Kebano with a cross.
Handball by Bobby De Cordova-Reid (Fulham).