A positive result never looked on the cards as Fulham were given a passing masterclass by Brighton in the first half, but Joao Palhinha’s rifled effort earned them a 1-1 draw and a laudable point at the Amex.
Brighton hope Carlos Baleba, the 19-year-old Cameroonian, will replace Moises Caicedo in the long-term, and the defensive midfielder was magnificent in the early stages. That was mostly by breaking up playing and passing shrewdly, yet he also had the game’s first chance when his powerful effort was parried well by Bernd Leno.
Baleba tended to operate in the same areas as Alex Iwobi, brought into the Fulham team in favour of Andreas Pereira, who Marco Silva admitted this week must offer more and has not hit the heights of last season. Iwobi saw as much of the ball as any Fulham player, desperately trying to move them up the pitch but struggling due to Brighton’s high intensity.
There was an irony when the away fans applauded their side actually winning the ball back midway through the first half, because as soon as they lost it again they fell behind. Harrison Reed’s pass was intercepted by Igor Julio, who played in Pascal Gross to assist Evan Ferguson for a calm opener.
Ferguson’s fifth league goal of the season, one off last season’s tally already, was the least the home side deserved.
Fulham’s response, at least as far as the first half is concerned, was underwhelming. Willian overegged his cross-field free-kick, and it evaded Timothy Castagne and went for a free-kick.
Fulham’s final chance of a half in which they were comfortably second best saw Willian dart down the left and cross. Bobby De Cordova-Reid ought to have taken a touch. Instead, his volley ballooned up and over.
Credit should go to Silva and his three substitutes — Harry Wilson, Rodrigo Muniz and Pereira — who all added a spark in the second half.
After Lewis Dunk had worried Leno but not beaten him with a free-kick with struck the crossbar, Fulham grew in confidence and stature, and ended the contest as the better side — something which seemed implausible before the interval.
From Wilson’s pass, Joao Palhinha controlled and then drove the ball with power into the top-right corner. Off went Fulham to celebrate ecstatically in the sheeting rain, and they could even have won it when Muniz’s flicked backheel was blocked by Jason Steele.
Fulham remain unbeaten in all seven of their Premier League meetings with Brighton. These days, that is some feat.