Fulham withstood a gutsy fightback from Cardiff to reach the Championship play-off final despite losing the second leg of their semi-final.
Cardiff won 2-1 on the night at Craven Cottage courtesy of goals from Curtis Nelson and Lee Tomlin, as Neeskens Kebano levelled for Fulham moments after Nelson’s headed opener.
Fulham () is an area of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in southwest London, England, 3.7 miles (6.0 km) southwest of Charing Cross. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, between Hammersmith and Kensington and Chelsea, facing Wandsworth, Putney and Barn Elms, with the London Wetland Centre in Barnes.Fulham has a history of industry and enterprise dating back to the 15th century, with pottery, tapestry-weaving, paper-making and brewing in the 17th and 18th centuries in present-day Fulham High Street, and later involvement in the automotive industry, early aviation, food production, and laundries. In the 19th-century there was glass-blowing and this resurged in the 21st-century with the Aronson-Noon studio and Zest gallery in Rickett Street that fell victim to the so-called ‘Earl’s Court Regeneration’ scheme in 2012.
Lillie Bridge Depot, a railway engineering depot opened in 1872, is associated with the building and extension of the London Underground, the electrification of Tube lines from the nearby Lots Road Power Station, and for well over a century has been the maintenance hub for rolling stock and track.Two football clubs, Fulham and Chelsea, play in Fulham. There are two exclusive sporting clubs, the Hurlingham Club, known for polo, and the Queen’s tennis club, known for its annual pre-Wimbledon tennis tournament.In the 1800s, Lillie Bridge Grounds hosted the first meetings of the Amateur Athletic Association of England, the second FA Cup Final, and the first amateur boxing matches.The Lillie Bridge area was the home ground of the Middlesex County Cricket Club, before it moved to Marylebone.Since the late 20th-century Fulham has a reputation as one of the most sought-after locations in London and has the highest capital values per square foot of prime South West London. Fulham is considered a prime London area by estate agents.
Fulham 1-2 Cardiff City (3-2 agg): Scott Parker's side into final …
Cardiff (; Welsh: Caerdydd [kairˈdiːð, kaːɨrˈdɨːð] (listen)) is a city and the capital of Wales. It is the United Kingdom’s eleventh-largest city. As Wales’ chief commercial centre, Cardiff is the base for the Senedd Cymru – Welsh Parliament, most national cultural institutions and Welsh media. At the 2011 census, the unitary authority area population was estimated to be 346,090, and the wider urban area 479,000. Cardiff is a significant tourist centre and the most popular visitor destination in Wales with 21.3 million visitors in 2017. In 2011, Cardiff was ranked sixth in the world in National Geographic’s alternative tourist destinations.Cardiff is the county town of the historic county of Glamorgan, and in 1974, South Glamorgan. Cardiff is part of the Eurocities network of the largest European cities. A small town until the early 19th century, its prominence as a major port for the transport of coal following the arrival of industry in the region contributed to its rise as a major city. In 1905, Cardiff was made a city and proclaimed the capital of Wales in 1955. In the 2011 Census, the population was 346,090. The Cardiff Built-up Area covers a slightly larger area outside the county boundary and includes the towns of Dinas Powys and Penarth.
Since the 1980s, Cardiff has seen significant development. A new waterfront area at Cardiff Bay contains the Senedd building (the Welsh Parliament) and the Wales Millennium Centre arts complex. Current developments include the continuation of the redevelopment of the Cardiff Bay and city centre areas with projects such as the Cardiff International Sports Village, the BBC drama village, and a new business district in the city centre.
Sporting venues in the city include the Principality Stadium—the national stadium and the home of the Wales national rugby union team—Sophia Gardens (the home of Glamorgan County Cricket Club), Cardiff City Stadium (the home of Cardiff City football team and the Wales football team), Cardiff International Sports Stadium (the home of Cardiff Amateur Athletic Club), Cardiff Arms Park (the home of Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC rugby union teams) and Ice Arena Wales (the home of Cardiff Devils ice hockey team). The city hosted the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Cardiff was awarded European City of Sport due to its role in hosting major international sporting events in 2009 and again in 2014. The Principality Stadium hosted 11 football matches as part of the 2012 Summer Olympics, including the games’ opening event and the men’s bronze medal match.
But despite a nervy second half following Tomlin’s volley, Fulham’s 2-0 first-leg lead helped them progress 3-2 on aggregate to a Wembley final against Brentford.
It keeps Fulham’s chances of an immediate return to the Premier League alive while Cardiff’s attempts to secure promotion back at the first time of asking are over.
Fulham 1-2 Cardiff City (3-2 agg): Scott Parker's side into final …
Needing to create history by being the first team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit in a second tier semi-final, Cardiff thought they had made the ideal start when centre-back Nelson rose at the back post to head in Joe Ralls’ corner.
But just 24 seconds later, Fulham were level and back to being two goals clear on aggregate.
Straight from the restart, Kebano swept in right-footed ahead of Cardiff right-back Leandro Bacuna to meet Bobby Decordova-Reid’s low cross from 12 yards out.
Kebano, who had also netted a brilliant free-kick in injury time of the first leg to put Fulham seemingly in command of the tie, had appeared to dash Cardiff’s chances of a spirited comeback.
Fulham continued to test Alex Smithies in the Cardiff goal before half-time, but good saves from Cyrus Christie and Anthony Knockaert efforts kept the scoreline level on the night.
With the visitors’ opening attack of the second half, a Will Vaulks long throw caused problems in the Fulham penalty box – Nathaniel Mendez-Laing’s header was parried away by Marek Rodak but centre-back Michael Hector was unable to force it clear, allowing Tomlin to pounce with a volley just inside the post.
But despite Fulham jitters, Cardiff were unable to capitalise. Smithies again had to make impressive saves to twice deny substitute Aboubakar Kamara, the second a fingertip deflection on to the base of the post.
At the other end, Rodak still had to be alert to maintain the home side’s advantage when he first blocked a close-range effort from Robert Glatzel and then leapt back to his feet to tip over Vaulks’ long-range drive.
Cardiff kept pushing to the end for the third goal that would have forced extra time and Glatzel came within inches of doing so deep into stoppage time when he volleyed narrowly over the crossbar from Callum Paterson’s nod-down.
It was not to be for the visitors, who sunk to their knees at full-time while Fulham breathed a sigh of relief.
Fulham set up neighbourly final
Fulham’s aggregate victory sets up an all-west London final on Tuesday against Brentford, who themselves saw off opposition from south Wales in the shape of Swansea on Wednesday.
Just four and a half miles separate the two clubs, who finished fourth and third respectively in the regular season.
Their counter-attacking styles of play, which produced goals aplenty in the regular season, should make for an attractive final.
Fulham’s bid to make an immediate return to the Premier League has been boosted by a eight-game unbeaten run stretching into the play-offs, which at one stage gave them the chance to grab the second automatic promotion place at both West Brom and Brentford’s expense.
What made their semi-final success over Cardiff all the more impressive was the fact it was done without Championship golden boot winner Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Serbia international again missed out with a hamstring strain, which could also put his participation in Tuesday’s final in doubt.
While Mitrovic has been an absentee, the likes of Decordova-Reid, Onomah and Kebano have stepped up to provide the attacking flair alongside the more established names of Knockaert and captain Tom Cairney.
Cairney was the match-winner on Fulham’s last Wembley visit just two years ago, when they beat Aston Villa 1-0 in the 2018 Championship play-off final.
A step too far for Harris’ Cardiff
While one side retains hopes of an immediate top-flight return, for Cardiff that dream came to an end.
Manager Neil Harris transformed their seemingly stuttering campaign when he took over in November following Neil Warnock’s departure and lifted them from 14th to an eventual fifth-placed finish.
Nelson’s early goal hinted that a memorable away triumph was on, but they failed to threaten again before half-time once Kebano produced the instant equaliser.
Having shuffled his side slightly from the first leg, it was the introduction of two players who dropped out that helped them retake the second-leg lead.
But Tomlin later had to limp off with a hamstring injury and that illustrated how Cardiff were always playing catch-up after losing ground in the first leg.
Fulham boss Scott Parker: “It was very nervy and I think we knew we were playing against a wounded animal in Cardiff, who had nothing to lose.
“At times tonight, we probably fell a bit short at dealing with the onslaught they bring to the game. It made it a bit of an uncomfortable night for us.
“But saying that, I don’t think we should lose sight of what we’ve done in 48 games this season, coming through a semi-final over two legs.
“What’s most important is we’ve won the tie on aggregate and now we go again for a final on Tuesday, which we’ll be a completely different game.
“I’m extremely proud to reach a final and when it all settles after tonight, we’ll reflect on what we’ve achieved as a team.”
Cardiff boss Neil Harris: “Firstly I am disappointed we haven’t got through. I had the belief coming here that we could go on and get through.
“I know most people didn’t but I know the capabilities of the group. I felt even at the end there would be chances and Robert Glatzel gets that chance.
“But that’s the disappointment done. I can’t be prouder of the players, the staff, the whole football club on where we have dragged ourselves to this season.”