Match report, Highlights and Managers Views

Cyrus Christie earned himself redemption with the 88th-minute equaliser which gave Middlesbrough a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Fulham at Craven Cottage.

With the ball bouncing around the Fulham penalty area, Christie kept his nerve to volley under the body of keeper David Button to earn Boro a point.

Just two minutes earlier, Christie had allowed Ryan Sessegnon to send over a deep cross on to the head of Aboubakar Kamara. The Fulham substitute nodded the ball in off the post in what appeared to spare him his own embarrassment after skewing his shot wide 10 minutes earlier.

The passion and excitement in the closing stages made up for the opening 75 minutes which, while pleasing on the eye, were short on chances. It took just 14 seconds for the first attempt on goal with Boro midfielder Lewis Baker skipping through but failing to connect properly with a 20-yard effort.

Seven minutes later, he tried again and connected more sweetly only for Fulham keeper David Button to tip his rising shot over the bar. Next, Fulham midfielder Oliver Norwood spotted that Boro keeper Darren Randolph had drifted away from his near post at a free-kick. The Northern Ireland midfielder tried to catch him out, but Randolph scrambled back to shovel the ball away just in time.

If ever there was a game which summed what Fulham are about this season it was this one. Beguiling in possession with runners pulling the Middlesbrough defenders this way and that, the home side also had Floyd Ayite, Sheyi Ojo and Sessegnon running at the full-backs and flashing low cross after low cross into Boro’s penalty area. The problem was that left only lone striker Rui Fonte in the box to try to finish. Time and again, he was thwarted by Gibson and Fry who simply denied him the space he craved. It meant that for all the Fulham possession, their only serious attempts on goal came from Ayite – foiled by the legs of Darren Randolph – or Norwood shooting just over on two occasions in the first half.

At the other end, Boro right-back Christie, who was more effective going forward than trying to stop Sessegnon galloping past him, jinked his way into the Fulham area. From his pass, Baker’s shot was always rising as it flew over the bar.

The second half followed a similar pattern. Another Norwood free-kick came close, this one landing on top of the net. Fulham were guilty of overplaying after 65 minutes, allowing Jonny Howson to set in motion an attack which ended with Patrick Bamford striking a left-foot shot just wide of the post. Marvin Johnson was similarly just off target three minutes with a low drive from just inside the area.

Neither opportunity was as clear-cut as the chance that then fell to Kamara 15 minutes from time and which preceded the breathless finish to the game.

Boro manager Garry Monk viewed the point, as one gained, not two lost as Boro extended their unbeaten record in all competitions to seven games.

Monk said: “We haven’t hit our full stride yet, but it’s coming. When it clicks, there won’t be many teams who can stop us. We are still improving.

“We knew it would be difficult coming here. Fulham will be challenging again this season. Both teams had an attacking mindset so it was always going to be an open game. Both teams had chances, but both could have been more clinical.

“Our character was on show today. We came back quickly for the equaliser and ended up pushing for the winner. The character of the players is undeniable.

“It must have been great entertainment for the fans. Fulham are always a threat but we dealt with them well and we will look forward to Tuesday’s game against Norwich.”

Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic will not change his approach despite watching his side concede another late equaliser.

Fulham have already conceded equalisers in the final 10 minutes of home games against Norwich and Cardiff and Jokanovic said:

“We deserved all three points, but you don’t always get what you deserve.

“We will always try to win games in this way, but this time it killed us at an important point in the game.

“But we are close to hitting our best level and we are going to try and win games in a similar way that we tried to this afternoon.

“I cannot be satisfied with the result but we performed well and created many chances. There must have been 20 times when we were in the final third of the pitch when we didn’t finish it off.

“To score was important. In my opinion we are close to our best level, but we are still not winning games. It wouldn’t make sense to change too much.

“It is always a popular question to ask: ‘What is your Plan B, C, D and E?’ But if Plan B isn’t better than Plan A it doesn’t make any sense to have another plan. The solution is to be brave, to push and keep going.” 

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