Craven Cottage had gotten used to 5-0 wins after seeing Marco Silva’s side tear apart Nottingham Forest and West Ham this month. But Burnley refused to become Fulham’s latest December dismemberment, holding it together until they took their chances in the second half.
First, Wilson Odobert produced a classy finish into the top corner after a one-two with Lyle Foster. Then, Sander Berge drilled his strike beyond Bernd Leno. With that, Vincent Kompany’s Burnley are no longer propping up the Premier League table.
Kompany approached the away fans at full-time. Front and centre, he threw clenched fists towards them, and a rippling roar was the reply. Burnley believe.
The television cameras were obsessed with showing Hugh Grant’s reaction to what was happening at Craven Cottage. The disappointment as Fulham failed to convert their chances in the first half. The desperation as Burnley took theirs in the second.
It was no wonder Grant skedaddled before full-time. He was not the only one. This was a fixture that Fulham fans will try their best to forget in a hurry.
Welch will not, however. When she walked out of the Craven Cottage tunnel, you could imagine the nerves. The 40-year-old former NHS administrator was alerted of this appointment two weeks ago. An eternity to mull over what might happen, not to mention read the jibes from social media ignoramuses like Joey Barton if one was so inclined.
Yet as Mark Clattenburg wrote in his Mail Sport column, Welch had earned this opportunity. She had worked her way up from the very bottom, having overseen the games where only a man and his dog were watching from the sidelines, and even the Jack Russell was barking abuse.
At 3pm, the trailblazer blew her whistle, and Fulham took charge in front of their watching owner Shahid Khan as only Burnley goalkeeper James Trafford stopped them from scoring.
First, Trafford was needed to stop Harry Wilson’s shot from nestling in the corner. Then, he prevented Joao Palhinha’s powerful drive from giving them the lead.
Fulham were without the injured Willian here. Operating on the left wing instead was Alex Iwobi, who used quick feet in the 15th minute to side-step Jordan Beyer as he broke through Burnley’s back line. Yet the end product was absent as he sent his shot into the side-netting.
After 22 minutes, Beyer’s foul on Andreas Pereira gave Fulham a free-kick opportunity from 35 yards. Pereira’s ambitious attempt was deflected narrowly wide.
In the 24th minute, Fulham’s fans were chanting ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ after Welch penalised a flailing arm from Calvin Bassey into the face of Josh Brownhill. Television replays showed it was careless and Bassey was cautioned.
Before the break, Fulham came close twice. Iwobi’s attempt at a curler was deflected off Vitinho, as the ball spun towards the top corner until Trafford Trafford acrobatically batted it away.
Iwobi then sent a goal-bound shot into the arm of Zeki Amdouni, but he was in the process of throwing himself to the ground to make the block. VAR Jarred Gillet checked it, with the help of his AVAR Natalie Aspinall, but Welch was told her original decision should stand.
Burnley had not looked like scoring and then, within two minutes of the second half’s restart, they led 1-0. Amdouni had already gone close when he then won the ball close to Fulham’s box ahead of Palhinha.
Odobert played a one-two with Foster and the 19-year-old’s curler towards the top corner was always out of Leno’s reach. It was Burnley’s first shot on target of the afternoon and the live Premier League table showed they were off the bottom of the table.
In the 66th minute, it was 2-0 when Berge was gifted the freedom of Craven Cottage to drive at Fulham’s back line before finding the bottom left corner beyond Leno.
There were some boos from Fulham’s fans at full-time. From Burnley, there were only roars as two sublime strikes secured them a significant win ahead of Christmas.