Fulham 1 Newcastle 0
- Simon Hooper
Newcastle United suffered a Sky Bet Championship opening day defeat at Fulham on Friday night
Newcastle United went down 1-0 at Fulham in their opening game of the 2016/17 Sky Bet Championship season.
Matt Smith's header separated the sides at Craven Cottage on Friday night but the Magpies will feel aggrieved to have not recorded at least a point, having seen a clear-cut penalty turned down when Ryan Tunnicliffe handled Matt Ritchie's cross with the game still goalless.
Clear cut chances were few and far between in the first half before Smith broke the deadlock with the interval approaching.
The big front man met Tom Cairney's corner to nod powerfully into the corner past the despairing grasp of Matz Sels.
United improved after the break and offered much more of an attacking threat but Cottagers' keeper David Button twice denied Matt Ritchie, and Ayoze Perez and Adam Armstrong were unable to hit the target from chances that fell their way.
The result meant United's miserable record at Craven Cottage continued, having not picked up a single point there since December 2007.
They will look to bounce back, however, when they entertain Huddersfield next Saturday at St. James' Park.
After a frantic opening period, the first chance of the game fell the way of the Magpies in the 11th minute when Perez was bundled over right on the edge of the area by Denis Odoi.
However, the Spanish forward - having brushed himself down - sent his resulting free-kick into the wall.
Fulham appealed for a penalty but Hanley got a vital touch to divert the ball away before Aluko fell under his cahllenge.
But in the 35th minute Newcastle should have been awarded a spot-kick. Ritchie got to the byline before delivering a left-footed cross which struck the outstretched arm of Ryan Tunnicliffe.
However, referee Simon Hooper was having none of it and signalled for a corner instead, much to the frustration of Rafa Benitez and his players.
It was end to end stuff and, with half-time approaching Aluko found enough room to pull the trigger from 20 yards. Sels was unable to hold the low, bouncing effort, but Paul Dummett was on hand to hack clear before Smith could pounce.
But Smith was to get his chance a minute before the interval and took it brilliantly, losing his marker to powerfully nod home Cairney's corner.
United raced out of the traps in the second half and, having applied some heavy pressure, almost levelled in the 54th minute.
Anita was sent scampering down the left flank and the Dutch international pulled a delivery back into the path of the onrushing Ritchie.
The wide man, who arrived from Bournemouth in the summer, didn't break his stride as he connected sweetly, but Cottagers' keeper David Button managed to stick out a leg to somehow divert the ball to safety.
That switch gave the Magpies another attacking option and they threatened again soon after when Ritchie sent a swerving long-ranger into the arms of Button.
Fulham's forays forward were rare but full-back Scott Malone almost doubled their advantage, striding forward and exchanging passes with Floyd Ayite but dragging his shot wide.
With time ticking away United continued to press for an equaliser. Substitute Armstrong saw a snap-shot fly off target before Ritchie screamed for a penalty when his shot was blocked by Tim Ream.
But Fulham held firm and it meant an opening day defeat for Benitez's Magpies.