Fulham 0 Newcastle United 2
- Chris Kavanagh
Newcastle United signed off for the 2020/21 campaign with a comfortable win over already-relegated Fulham at Craven Cottage.
A game that some had earmarked as a potential six-pointer earlier in the season ultimately had little riding on it coming into the weekend, but another Magpies victory – their fifth in their last eight outings – made sure they ended up in 12th place in the Premier League, a point and a position better off than last term.
A first-half goal from hotshot Joe Willock – his seventh in as many games in black and white – and a late penalty from substitute Fabian Schär did the job for Newcastle, who actually finished the campaign 17 points in front of their opponents as a result of their win.
The first chance of note for either side arrived six minutes in, as the Magpies’ Allan Saint-Maximin drove past three Fulham defenders before bringing a low stop out of ‘keeper Marek Rodák. At the other end, Rodák’s Slovakia compatriot Martin Dúbravka was nearly called into action after Ademola Lookman cut in from the left and let fly with a low drive, but the wide-man’s strike whistled past the near post.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Fulham’s Ivan Cavaleiro whipped a right-footed shot past the opposite upright following a nearly identical move. It largely summed up the hosts’ start to the game, with Scott Parker’s side showing promise down the flanks but seemingly running out of ideas when confronted with United’s three-man central defence. And, pretty much on the midpoint of the first half, it was Steve Bruce’s visitors who got their noses in front. Willock, again, was at the heart of it all, picking up possession in his own half and driving forward before benefitting from a helpful bounce off Fulham’s Tim Ream to lash the ball beyond a helpless Rodák.
The Cottagers’ stopper had to be alert to keep out a speculative Miguel Almirón effort four minutes later after the hosts’ backline stood off. Though Cavaleiro got another shot away before the break – one Dúbravka watched sail onto the roof of the net – United ended the first half looking largely in control.
Former Wolves forward Cavaleiro really should have done better when put through on goal in the 56th minute, though. A rare moment of sloppiness from Willock allowed fellow youngster Fábio Carvalho to pick up a loose ball and play Cavaleiro down the centre. But, with just Dúbravka to beat and much of the goal gaping, the Portuguese failed to keep his effort down. United saw a golden chance of their own go begging as the closing stages approached, with Dwight Gayle – who’d only just entered the fray as a substitute – heading over the top from an unmarked position after meeting Matt Ritchie’s free kick.
Fulham continued to look assured in possession but struggled to really threaten a resolute Magpies rearguard. And, with two minutes of normal time remaining, Schär put the outcome beyond doubt from the spot, waiting for Rodák to dive one way before coolly tucking the ball into the opposite corner after Ritchie was brought to the ground by Kenny Tete.