Fulham’s relegation fears deepened after goals from Sam Byram, Sol Bamba and Mirco Antenucci fired Leeds United to a 3-0 victory at Craven Cottage.
Remarkably, the visitors scored with their only three genuine chances of the match, while Fulham missed a host of opportunities, with the former Leeds strike pairing of Ross McCormack and Matt Smith the chief culprits. McCormack and Smith scored 42 goals between them for Leeds last season but little has gone to plan this term as Fulham lie only six points above the Championship relegation zone.
The only saving grace for the manager, Kit Symons, is that none of the four teams below them look capable of picking up a win either. Should that change, however, then Fulham, the pre-season favourites for promotion, will be in grave danger of suffering back-to-back relegations.
They also had the defender Konstantinos Stafylidis sent off for collecting two bookings in the space of a minute on another frustrating evening for the under-pressure Symons.
McCormack, signed for £11m from Elland Road in the summer, should have fired Fulham ahead after only six minutes when he latched on to Smith’s knockdown and raced through on goal. However, Marco Silvestri in the Leeds goal guessed correctly as the Scotland striker attempted to slide the ball across him.
It was a miss that set the tone for the rest of the first half, with McCormack twice finding Smith with crosses in the six-yard box and Smith twice heading off-target.
The once-dynamic pairing did have the ball in the net after half an hour when McCormack met Smith’s header back across goal with a neat sidefooted volley but he was pulled back for offside.
Leeds, by this point, had barely ventured into the Fulham half but in a rare foray forward five minutes before the break, they took a shock lead. Gaetano Berardi crossed from the left and Byram was left all alone to nod the opener past Marcus Bettinelli.
The hosts’ defending let them down again three minutes after the interval when they allowed Alex Mowatt’s corner to bounce through the area before Bamba headed in at the far post.
Fulham’s evening took a turn for the even worse moments later when Stafylidis had his minute of madness. Having just been booked for dissent, the Greek defender had barely let play resume before scything down Byram on the touchline, giving the referee, Chris Kavanagh, no option but to send him off.
Still Fulham piled forward and still they could not find the net, with Ryan Tunnicliffe sidefooting wide from in front of goal and Shaun Hutchinson heading against a post.
Their misery was complete two minutes from time when Byram’s cross was palmed out by Bettinelli to the feet of the substitute Antenucci, who volleyed the ball into the ground and watched it loop into the net.