Fulham vs Cardiff | Thursday 30th July 2020, 19:45 | Sky Sports
A largely one-sided first leg in the Welsh capital means it is very much advantage Fulham in the quest for a place at the Championship play-off final next week.
A 2-0 victory for Scott Parker’s men came courtesy of a Lionel Messi inspired Josh Onomah strike early into the second half, whilst Neeskens Kebano doubled the lead in added time when scoring a second free-kick in as many games. Neil Harris has lost every game versus Fulham in management, and a mammoth effort is required to turn the tie around on Thursday night.
Fulham’s triumph was all the more impressive knowing that they achieved it without their talisman striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who sat out the clash with a minor issue. It is likely he will be fit to return for the second leg, although with the Cottagers firmly in the driving seat, he could possibly be left on the bench and utilised if required in the second half. They didn’t necessarily miss him at the Cardiff City Stadium, with Bobby Decordova-Reid putting in a shift as the main striker.
The match and the tie in general could have a completely different complexion now if Cardiff had indeed opened the scoring, and it was only a last ditch intervention from Michael Hector which denied Robert Glatzel with a certain goal early into proceedings. The Bluebirds did start the stronger in relation to clear-cut chances, with Glatzel also coming close, but Fulham would kick on as the game progressed, and the second half was a thoroughly professional performance.
Harris will have to inspire his side to making history if they are indeed to make it to Wembley as no team has overturned a two-goal first-leg deficit to make the showpiece event. That late free-kick from Kebano puts an even bigger complexion on this match, and Cardiff are going to need the performance of their lives. Of course, they are capable, and I’m not for one minute suggesting they are going to go out with a whimper here.
Harris has hinted to Fulham’s celebrations as being one motivational factor for them, insisting that they ‘celebrated like they’ve won the league’, and firmly maintained it is still half time in the tie. He also made reference to the League Two play-offs, where Northampton progressed past Cheltenham despite losing the first-leg 2-0. Also, Cardiff’s second half display on Monday was really disappointing by their standards, and I’m expecting a big reaction.
As for Fulham, Parker is likely to sound out all the right messages in relation to how they approach this second encounter. It is a bit of a stick or twist scenario for them, and whilst it is a position they’re glad to be in, it is still never entirely straightforward how they tackle this one. I’m thinking they’ll be content to keep the first half fairly tight and not take too many risks. Then again, neither will Cardiff necessarily go gung-ho right from kick-off, as they know conceding first realistically ends the tie.
I do therefore like the look of 6/5 (Paddy Power) on offer for Second Half Highest Scoring Half. That ultimately was the case in the first leg, plus Cardiff actually have an excellent second half record so I can picture them putting Fulham under huge pressure, although they will be vulnerable to counter attacks with the likes of Onomah, Kebano and Anthony Knockaert on the scene.
Furthermore, I’m quite surprised we can get a price of 5/4 (Sky Bet) on Cardiff Over 5.5 Corners. They top the league in relation to goals scored from set-pieces, so this is an avenue they are likely to target. They don’t actually average a high amount of corners per game, based on this season, which again is surprising, but everything is on the line here and they’ll throw everything at Fulham at some stage.
With that being the case, I think a tentative call on Sean Morrison Anytime Scorer is certainly worthy of consideration at 18/1 (Betfred). He leads the league in relation to touches inside the opposition box for a defender, and he is the man who is first target for free kicks, corners and long throws from Will Vaulks.
Fulham v Cardiff – Second Half Highest Scoring Half (6/5 Paddy Power)
Fulham v Cardiff – Cardiff Over 5.5 Corners (5/4 Sky Bet)
Fulham v Cardiff – Sean Morrison Anytime Scorer (18/1 Betfred)