Fulham 2 – 0 Nottingham Forest. Willian’s superb first-half finish helped Fulham end their winless Premier League run and condemned Nottingham Forest to a first top-flight defeat in 2023.
Former Chelsea and Arsenal winger Willian collected a loose ball inside the penalty area before cutting onto his left foot and finding the top corner with a curling strike.
Second-half substitute Manor Solomon ended Forest’s hopes of salvaging a point with a clinical finish two minutes from time.
Forest, who lost centre-backs Willy Boly and Scott McKenna to early injuries, were fortunate only to be 1-0 down at half-time as Aleksandar Mitrovic, Bobby de Cordova-Reid and Andreas Pereira all went close to doubling the hosts’ lead.
Willian and Pereira were also both denied by the frame of the goal not long after the restart, but Forest – buoyed perhaps by Fulham’s inability to add to their advantage – improved as the second half wore on.
Substitutes Jonjo Shelvey and Emmanuel Dennis almost combined to bring the visitors back on level terms, but the latter sent his header straight at Bernd Leno before Solomon struck late on.
Steve Cooper’s side remains six points above the relegation zone but drops a place to 14th, while Fulham climbs above Brentford into seventh.
Fulham enjoyed a slice of good fortune with Boly and McKenna’s injuries disrupting the visiting defence, but this was a display in keeping with the Cottagers’ outstanding campaign so far.
Confident and assured in possession, Silva’s side deservedly ended a run of over five hours without a Premier League goal when Willian struck his third of the campaign.
The opportunity appeared to have gone when Mitrovic and De Cordova-Reid were both denied by last-ditch blocks, but Willian collected the ball and calmly lifted it over five Forest defenders into the top corner to break the deadlock.
Mitrovic almost ended his own five-game goal drought after taking Willian’s pass in his stride and sidestepping two Forest challenges, but the striker’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Keylor Navas.
De Cordova-Reid rattled the crossbar with a vicious right-footed strike and Pereira flashed a shot wide of the far post as Silva’s team ended the first half in the ascendancy.
There was little change to the pattern of play in the early stages of the second period as Willian’s curling shot struck the post and Pereira sent a dipping free-kick against the bar.
But keeper Leno had to be on his toes to deny Dennis from point-blank range as the visitors sought an equaliser.
If Fulham fans were wondering whether their team might rue their profligacy, Solomon calmed their nerves in the 88th minute with a powerful finish from Pereira’s low cross for his first goal since his loan arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk.
Forest’s bid to avoid an immediate return to the Championship has gathered serious momentum in recent weeks, but they suffered an early setback here as Boly and McKenna were taken off after only seven minutes – the earliest any side has ever substituted two starters in a Premier League game.
The pair appeared to get injured in the same move, McKenna colliding with Fulham’s Mitrovic and Boly pulling a muscle while attempting to clear the Serbian striker’s flick-on.
Joe Worrall and former Atletico Madrid defender Felipe came on as replacements, but Forest’s makeshift defence was powerless to prevent Willian from putting the hosts in front.
The visitors managed just five touches in the opposition penalty area before the break, but the second-half introductions of Dennis and Shelvey looked like providing the spark Forest needed to get back in the contest.
Dennis in particular was a major threat, but the former Watford man’s header – Forest’s only shot on target – failed to beat Leno.
Cooper’s team have found the net just three times on their travels this season and failed to score in nine of their 22 top-flight encounters – only Bournemouth and Wolves have drawn more blanks in the league.
source – BBC