Fulham 6-2 Birmingham City: Hosts run riot once again with scintillating attacking display
Photo by Getty Images/Clive Rose

For the second match in a row, Fulham were 6-2 visitors at Craven Cottage, with Birmingham City their victims on this occasion in a simply devastating display of their attacking ability.

The scoring was opened with an own-goal from Marc Roberts but Neeskens Kebano, Fabio Carvalho and Tom Cairney all got in on the act before the half-time whistle; as did Ivan Sunjic who scored an impressive consolation on the cusp of the break.

Gary Gardner then made it 4-2 with another good goal for the visitors, a moment which jolted Fulham back into gear as they notched their fifth and sixth goals through Carvalho and Antonee Robinson respectively. The only surprise of the evening was that arch marksman Aleksandar Mitrovic failed to get in on the act.

The result sees Fulham extend their lead at the top of the Championship table to five points, while Birmingham remain in 18th on goal difference.

Story of the game

Coming into the match, it was one change apiece as Fulham head coach rested right-back Kenny Tete in favour of Denis Odoi, while Lee Bowyer reinstalled Ryan Woods into his Birmingham midfield as 17-year old Jordan James dropped to the bench.

It was pretty clear from the outset how this game would pan out: the visitors sat deep in a bid to keep the scores low and relied on the combination of effective hold-up play from Lukas Jutkiewicz and sheer pace from Onel Hernandez to give their hosts problems on the counter-attack.

However, that plan fell into trouble just 10 minutes into the encounter as the in-form Whites soon capitalised on their dominance in the early stages.

Harry Wilson found himself free on the right side of the penalty area and poked the ball into the centre in search of arch marksman Aleksandar Mitrovic, however it was inadvertently turned into the net by Roberts in a desperate but ultimately detrimental attempt to prevent it from reaching the lethal striker.

Fulham came close to a second on the 20-minute mark when a searching cross from skipper Cairney met the head of Odoi at the back post, but the Belgian failed to direct his effort on target from a tight angle.

It really felt as though another breakthrough was merely a matter of when rather than if as far as Silva's men were concerned; yet, bizarrely, half an hour into the match Birmingham had mustered three shots on goal to Fulham's one. Despite the early setback, the Blues weren't doing the worst job of keeping their rampant opponents at bay.

They had a scare when Wilson latched onto a loose ball just outside the area and registered an absolute piledriver at goal which deflected off multiple bodies in blue but, thankfully for the visitors, eventually ricocheted high and wide of the target.

But soon enough Birmingham's plan was unravelled once more due to a simply unstoppable passage of play from the most impressive attacking outfit the Championship has to offer. Wilson was involved again as he picked the ball up on the right flank and fed the run of Odoi behind the visiting defence; the full-back in turn crossed first-time for Kebano who couldn't miss from a matter of yards out.

And it was three just moments later with a virtually identical goal on the opposite side of the pitch. This time, Kebano thread through Robinson who swiftly delivered into the area to give Carvalho a simple glancing header. It was genuinely unstoppable attacking play.

Fulham weren't done yet, either. With about three minutes of this frantic half remaining, Carvalho received the ball from Kebano and looked to be sizing up the shot before laying it off for Cairney who summoned up a precise finish to put his side a remarkable four goals to the good with Birmingham powerless to resist.

To call any goal before half-time a consolation would usually be pretty ludicrous, however this special Fulham team are operating under special circumstances, and they did indeed concede a consolation on the cusp of the break as Sunjic scored a stunning drive from the left edge of the box to give the travelling support something to cheer at the end of a gruelling half of football.

"Five-four, we're gonna win five-four!" they then chanted hopefully.

The referee's whistle blew just moments later, and Fulham's quick-fire triple salvo in the latter stages of the first-half thus saw them go into half-time with 17 goals 225 minutes of football — a frankly incredible level of attacking output from the promotion hopefuls.

The floodgates appeared to have shut again — at least for the time being — at the beginning of the second half, and in fact it was Jutkiewicz who had the best chance on the 55th minute mark when he swivelled in the box and directed a powerful shot towards the near bottom corner, but Marek Rodak read it well and was equal to the shot.

A shift to four-at-the-back from Bowyer's men made them both more impervious at the back and more dangerous going forward, giving Fulham a whole lot more to think about and adjust to after the break. Nonetheless, teams as proficient as this always find a way through.

The Whites nearly reimposed their four-goal advantage when Wilson set up Carvalho on the edge of the area with a gorgeous back-heel, but the teenager's effort was straight down thew throat of goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.

Instead, Birmingham went on to cut the deficit to just two goals. Kristian Pedersen drove forward from left-back and laid the ball off for Gardner on the edge of the box, the midfielder duly obliging with a deft and accurate finish into the bottom corner.

Were the Whites perhaps now feeling the pressure a little? Not at all. Within moments, they were three goals to the good once more as Carvalho cut in from the left flank and drove a pinpoint shot in at the far post with Etheridge given no chance.

And it became six on the cusp of the full-time whistle when Robinson powered home a vicious effort from the edge of the box. Silva's side kindly obliged to relent there with Birmingham visibly downtrodden, but what were they to do about the sheer formidability of their hosts?

Takeaways from the match

Fulham's goalscoring flurries

Silva's side are the most potent attacking outfit in the Championship and, arguably, in England as a whole. Match-by-match, they're goalscoring output is consistently exceptional — but the truth is that, within those games, their goals come in phases and flurries.

It was seen against Bristol City at the weekend with four goals in ten minutes at the end of the first-half; and they were another three in the same period of the match tonight. It's why they are by far and away the top scorers in the division — they go though spells where their opposition simply can't keep them at bay.

Of course if their output was that consistently relentless across an entire 90-minute match they'd be looking at victories by anywhere between 10 and 20 goals — but nonetheless Silva, a perfectionist, will perhaps be looking to find ways of making his team proficient in all stages of the match and less reliant on these flurries which may or may not transpire in each and every game.

Nonetheless, it's now 19 goals in 270 minutes of football — nothing of the like has ever been seen before in the second-tier.

Not Birmingham's worst performance, but they were powerless to resist

Bowyer's men aren't the first Championship side to be on the wrong end of a Fulham thumping, nor will they by any means be the last. There was very little they could have done about tonight's result against the second-tier's most formidable attack.

The truth is that Birmingham genuinely kept their hosts at bay rather well for the majority of the match, ultimately falling victim to another relentless attacking spell of the kind Fulham seem to muster week after week after week.

Fulham's quality spoke volumes tonight but this wasn't a display the Blues should be especially disheartened with — understandably, they just couldn't cope with a team fighting an entirely different kind of battle to that which Bowyer's side find themselves in, while the two goals were in themselves a plus point.

Teams

Fulham: Rodak; Odoi, Tosin, Ream, Robinson; Cairney [c] (Chalobah 68'), Reed (Onomah 81'); Wilson, Carvalho, Kebano (Decordova-Reid 68'); Mitrovic.

Unused subs: Gazzaniga, Tete, Mawson, Muniz.

Birmingham City: Etheridge; Mengi, Roberts (Friend 64'), Pedersen; Colin, Gardner, Sunjic, Woods, Bela; Hernandez (James 82'), Jutkiewicz [c] (Hogan 64').

Unused subs: Trueman, Masampu, Campbell, Bellingham.

Referee: Gavin Ward

Attendance: 16,491

Up next

Following victory here, Fulham travel to playoff chasers Stoke City at the weekend in what could prove to be a challenging encounter.

Birmingham, meanwhile, return to their home at St Andrews to host Barnsley.

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