Cairney stunner sets Fulham on their way to victory over Blackburn
A superb Tom Cairney goal helped Fulham record their first victory of the fledgling season with a comfortable 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers at Craven Cottage.
The Fulham captain, who endured a frustrating season in the Premier League, demonstrated the poise, positional sense and positivity which sets him apart at Championship level.
He bestrode the game and capped a fine individual display with a long-range strike 11 minutes before half-time.
Aleksandar Mitrovic sealed victory by tapping home an 82nd-minute Joe Bryan cross.
How different it might have been. Blackburn came within a mistimed Bradley Johnson header of taking the lead within the opening 50 seconds.
Adam Armstrong swung over a cross that hung in the swirling breeze by the banks of the Thames and denied Johnson the chance to power home his header. Instead, his effort apologetically bounced wide of Marcus Bettinelli’s left-hand post.
Harry Arter was then on hand to fling his body in the way of a Johnson shot as Fulham were guilty of overplaying at times. Insistent on passing out from the back, they gave the ball away while still in their own half on a number of occasions.
Indeed, Mitrovic’s most telling contribution in the opening 20 minutes was a blistering volley over his own crossbar as he defended a free-kick.
The home side finally roused themselves. First, Mitrovic dragging his shot wide after being set free on the halfway line, then Anthony Knockaert went closer with another left-foot effort.
Cairney did not miss when Fulham took the lead in the 34th minute. Cairney collected a short pass 30 yards out, sized up his angles and let fly with a sumptuous left-foot strike which had Rovers keeper Christian Walton grasping at thin air as it struck the net.
Fulham emerged for the second half buoyed by the lead they were enjoying. They pressed forward at every opportunity with Cairney outstanding in his ability to create time and space in which to direct attacks.
Blackburn were being hemmed in, yet broke away in the 53rd minute and almost equalised through Armstrong whose skimming shot missed the far post by inches.
As the game began to swing from one penalty area to the other, Ivan Cavaleiro was thwarted by a superb last-ditch tackle by Elliott Bennett as he rounded Bettinelli.
Next, Knockaert was left hopping in frustration after scooping an angled shot over the bar before Blackburn substitute Danny Graham headed a Bennett cross wastefully wide three minutes after replacing Lewis Travis.
Fulham’s victory was assured eight minutes from time when the excellent Bryan galloped forward from left-back, rode two challenges and pulled the ball square for Mitrovic to tap home from six yards.