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Supersub Vini shows Luton how it is done

Torpedo sinks Hatters after string of misses

By Aadam Patel

WHEN these two sides last met 16 months ago, Fulham hit seven past Luton on the night the Cottagers sealed the Championship title. Few would have imagined that the next time they would meet would be in the Premier League.

As it was, this was a first topflight meeting between the teams since 1960 when the Hatters won 4-1 at Kenilworth Road, but it was Fulham who took the points here thanks to substitute Carlos Vinicius’ second-half strike and moved into the top half of the table.

The Brazilian’s first goal of the season inflicted a fourth straight defeat on Luton, who became only the second side to lose each of their first four Premier League matches in their first season in the division, since Swindon Town in 1993-94 and are now rooted to the bottom.

‘Tricky one. Difficult one and to be honest, we expected that with their 5-3-2 behind the ball,’ said Marco Silva, whose side were made to graft. ‘It was crucial for us to win this,’ he added.

In truth, Luton offered stubborn resistance but lacked that clinical edge to beat Bernd Leno despite some glorious chances.

‘We missed three golden opportunities today and I think we should have had a penalty as well,’ said Luton boss Rob Edwards.

Silva made three changes from the side that lost to Man City before the break, Joao Palhinha making his first appearance since his move to Bayern Munich collapsed.

The Portuguese international won 11 duels, the most of any player on the pitch and since making his Premier League debut last August he has won 308 duels — more than any other player in the division.

‘Top player. Top professional. Top guy,’ said Silva, when asked about Palhinha, who signed a new deal until 2028 earlier this week.

‘He showed his quality and commitment. All players have dreams. Any professional wants to improve, so it’s no surprise when one of the biggest clubs come in. But I never had doubts about his commitment.’

Edwards made four changes from the defeat by West Ham with Issa Kabore and Albert Sambi Lokonga making debuts after moving on loan from Man City and Arsenal respectively. With five at the back and keeper Thomas Kaminski booked for timewasting in the first half, Luton’s gameplan was clear — to defend and hit on the break.

Fulham enjoyed 77.8 per cent possession — their most ever in a Premier League game — but it was the visitors who had the better chances in the first half with Tahith Chong testing Leno early. Carlton Morris volleyed wide from inside the box before Jacob Brown’s header rattled the bar after a super delivery from Kabore. Fulham had chances of their own and Kenny Tete should have converted when Andreas Pereira’s corner found the Fulham defender but he failed to keep his free header down. The visitors should have taken the lead after the break when Brown’s floated delivery found Amari Bell at the far post but he shot straight at Leno.

Luton were made to pay for that three minutes after Vinicius replaced Raul Jimenez up front. Pereira found Willian down the left and his delivery was palmed by Kaminski straight into the path of Vinicius who smashed home.

Edwards rolled the dice with four subs but in vain.

The win was a fitting way to mark Silva’s 100th game in charge of the club. He said of the season so far: ‘Five games, tough schedule and many [refereeing] decisions against us that have had a huge impact. It’s not an excuse but a reality.’

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