Fulham 1-0 Middlesbrough: Anthony Knockaert sends Whites third with winner
Fulham moved up to third in the Championship as Anthony Knockaert's early goal gave them victory over in-form Middlesbrough at Craven Cottage.
Knockaert capped a blistering opening half an hour from the hosts with what proved to be the winner, meeting Joe Bryan's low fizzing cross to tap home at the far post.
It was the least Fulham deserved for their relentless first-half pressure, with the absence of injured top goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic perhaps telling as Scott Parker's side squandered at least three guilt-edged opportunities.
Ivan Cavaleiro and Josh Onomah were most guilty, both failing to hit the target when well placed, while Denis Odoi deflected Hayden Coulson's cross on to his own crossbar on a rare foray forward from Boro.
The contest was much tighter after half-time, although Odoi thought he had made the game safe when his glancing header found the corner of the net – only to be flagged offside by the barest of margins.
But Fulham were able to see the game out relatively comfortably to leapfrog Brentford and close the gap to the automatic promotion places to four points.
The result also checks Middlesbrough's recent resurgence, with defeat in west London their first in six league matches, after they had clawed themselves clear of relegation trouble.
That run included eye-catching wins at West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End, but they never came close to repeating that level of performance against Fulham.
Knockaert had already curled one effort wide even before opening the scoring in the sixth minute, while captain Tom Cairney and Bryan also had efforts saved.
Paddy McNair came closest to an equaliser in the closing stages, inadvertently guiding a free-kick from out wide towards the far corner and forcing goalkeeper Marek Rodak into a smart save.
Fulham manager Scott Parker told BBC Radio London: “I thought we were very, very good first half. And I thought second half we had some big chances but didn't capitalise.
“We weren't clinical enough in the first half. I thought everything we've worked on this week worked so well.
“But we won the game with another clean sheet, we looked pretty solid and for the majority of the game we played some good stuff.”
Middlesbrough boss Jonathan Woodgate told BBC Tees: “Fulham are a good team. They were right on top. But we kept on going.
“We didn't give up. In the second half, we were miles better.”
On the signing of goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic on Thursday, Woodgate added: “His concentration level is very good. He makes important saves, he's quick off his line.
“It's Aynsley [Pears]'s shirt to lose at the minute so Dejan will come in and challenge Aynsley for the number one spot along with Tommy [Tomas Mejias]. You can't drop Aynsley. He's done really well.”
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