Wolves 1 (Sako 15)
Wolves bounced back from their Rotherham disappointment to record an excellent victory over Fulham with Bakary Sako thumping home the only goal of a game that the Molineux men controlled for long periods.
Kenny Jackett named an unchanged side for the third consecutive League game on what was a pleasant late summer’s evening on the banks of the Thames.
Wolves kicked-off defending the end of Craven Cottage that housed the 2,000 supporters that had travelled down from the Midlands.
Fulham won a fifth minute corner after Konstantinos Stafylidis’s shot hit Danny Batth and went behind but Mark Fotheringham’s kick sailed over the heads of everyone and out for a throw on the far side.
Sean Kavanagh was shown an early yellow card after a heavy challenge on Rajiv van La Parra and, after Dave Edwards was wide with a cross-shot following Kevin McDonald’s over the top through ball, Fotheringham went into the book for clattering into Sako.
Another great ball from McDonald fell into the path of Van La Parra who went flying over Jesse Joronen as the two went for the ball but the keeper just got the first touch to clear the danger.
Wolves were looking by far the more dangerous side and they deservedly moved ahead in the 15th minute. Scott Golbourne played a low corner into the box and Edwards dummied allowing the ball to run through to Sako who lashed home a left foot shot from 12-yards.
Stafylidis tried a shot from 20-yards that was too high to trouble Carl Ikeme before Matt Doherty ran deep into the Fulham half and slipped the ball to Van La Para on the overlap. The Dutch winger drove in a low cross that Joronen just managed to claim as Doherty continued his run.
On the half-hour, Batth booted behind a dangerous cross from Kavanagh whose corner was cleared upfield by Sako to Nouha Dicko. The striker checked and rolled the ball back to Edwards whose shot was deflected behind for an unproductive corner.
Nikolay Bodurov was lucky not to be yellow carded after he barged Dicko onto the track at the side of the pitch. Sako lifted the free-kick into the heart of the box and Batth was just wide with a towering header that flashed past the post.
Joronen then fumbled a driven cross from Sako and, just before the break, Batth nodded a Golbourne corner down into the heart of the six-yard box but the ball fell to a Fulham boot and was hoofed clear.
The interval arrived with Ikeme not having had to make a save.
Half-Time: Fulham 0 Wolves 1
The opening minutes of the new half saw Edwards and Batth both receiving treatment for ankle and head injuries respectively. In between, Fulham replaced Fotheringham with Moussa Dembele.
And it was Dembele who got in the home side’s first on target shot – a low effort from 25-yards that Ikeme turned behind at full stretch.
Wolves could have had a second in the 57th minute but Doherty got underneath McDonald’s cross and his close range header went over.
Ross McCormack, who cost The Cottagers a cool £11 million in the summer, fired over the bar from the edge of the box and Wolves were close again after Richard Stearman went on a run before feeding Sako whose cross flew across the face of goal.
Van La Para cut in from the right and hit an angled shot that went into the side netting before, in Wolves’ next attack, he played a lovely pass inside to McDonald whose shot was blocked by the keeper.
Van La Parra completely outfoxed and outpaced Stafylidis who then felled the Wolves man and became the third Fulham player to go into the book.
Batth was close again with a header form another Golbourne corner and, when Van La Parra fed Doherty. The defender sprinted into the Fulham box and clipped the ball wide of the far post.
Michael Jacobs replaced Van La Parra for the final few minutes and as the game drifted into stoppage time, it looked as if the points were guaranteed after Wolves were awarded a penalty when Dicko was felled from behind by Cameron Burgess who was being left behind by the striker who had sprinted into the box from the right.
But Joronen guessed correctly and he dived to his left to tip Sako’s spot-kick onto the post. It meant that the gold and black clad fans at the opposite end had to endure a few agonising seconds as Fulham mounted one last attack.
Thankfully, after the ball had bounced around in the box for a few seconds, it was cleared and the final whistle sounded to signal a fully merited three points for Jackett’s men.
Fulham: Joronen, Hoogland, Stafylidis, Bodurov, Parker (capt), Roberts, Woodrow (Rodellega 80), Fotheringham (Dembele 50), Kavanagh (Williams 84), Burgess, McCormack.
Unused subs: Bettinelli, Hutchinson, Eisfeld, Voser.
Bookings: Kavanagh (7 – foul), Fotheringham (10 – foul), Stafylidis (74 – foul), McCormack (90+3 dissent).
Wolves: Ikeme, Doherty, Golbourne, Evans, Batth (capt), Stearman, Van La Parra (Henry 86), Edwards, Dicko, McDonald, Sako.
Unused subs: McCarey, Clarke, Ricketts, McAlinden, Ebanks-Landell, Jacobs.
Referee: J. Linington.