Fulham ended Nottingham Forest’s five-game unbeaten run in the Premier League with a deserved 2-0 win at Craven Cottage to move up to seventh.
A goal in either half from Willian and substitute Manor Solomon earned Marco Silva’s team a first victory in four matches against an injury-hit Forest side who were subdued and unable to muster much attacking threat.
Steve Cooper’s visitors suffered a cruel and record-breaking blow after only seven minutes, losing central defensive pair Willy Boly and Scott McKenna to injury – the earliest in Premier League history that a team replaced two of the starting XI.
Fulham did not need long to take advantage of Forest’s misfortune. In the 20th minute Bobby Decordova-Reid, arriving onto a loose ball inside the box after Joao Palhinha’s shot was blocked, took control and lofted a cross to the back post. The ball was half-cleared by the head of Renan Lodi but only as far as Willian, who cut inside the Forest defender and blasted a left-footed bullet high beyond Keylor Navas into the top corner.
It was Fulham’s first league goal since January 12 and Aleksandar Mitrovic nearly added a second after 35 minutes, receiving Willian’s square ball and, having bamboozled the substitute defensive pair Felipe and Joe Worrall, striking low at goal only for the sprawling Navas to deflect the ball wide.
Forest, clearly rocked by their early bad luck, were clinging on. Decordova-Reid smacked the crossbar with a crisp, flying drive from 25 yards that had Navas beaten, then Andreas Pereira collected Willian’s ball inside and hit a curling shot with his left foot that went just wide.
The second half brought little respite for Cooper’s side as Fulham’s confidence and control of the game started to build.
Palhinha nodded wide with a glancing header from Pereira’s corner minutes after the restart, before Willian almost replicated the opening goal when he cut inside on his right foot and struck Navas’ post with a blistering effort from range.
Cooper sent on Jonjo Shelvey for his Forest debut in search of greater presence in midfield, but the direction of the tide would not turn. Instead, it was Fulham who struck the woodwork for a third time when Pereira’s 25-yard free-kick bounced away off the crossbar.
Finally Forest threatened to find their bite. In the 65th minute, Serge Aurier hit a cross that was misjudged by Kenny Tete as it dropped, leaving Emmanuel Dennis free to size up a shot that he lifted narrowly over.
Moments later came their best chance. Shelvey’s delivery was excellent and there rising highest at the far post was Aurier, whose firm header was brilliantly beaten away at point-blank range by Bernd Leno.
Forest kept up a vague, lingering threat almost until the end, but it was the hosts who had the last word when substitute Solomon, on for the excellent Willian, drilled past Navas two minutes from time for his first Fulham goal. It wrapped up a deserved win.