Marco Silva spoke of his privilege in getting to work with Willian every day after the winger’s goal helped Fulham win for the first time in four Premier League games.
The 34-year-old’s brilliant first-half drive set the hosts on their way to a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest at Craven Cottage, capping a brilliant individual display as Silva’s team ended their winless streak and climbed to seventh.
Fulham had not scored in the league since beating Chelsea at home nearly a month ago, but the barren streak was ended emphatically when Willian pounced on a weak header from Forest’s Renan Lodi, cut inside and blasted the hosts ahead in the 17th minute. Substitute Manor Solomon added a second to seal the win two minutes from time.
Afterwards Silva was full of praise for the player signed on a free transfer in the summer from Corinthians as Fulham cemented their credentials for a possible European place.
“A top-class player,” said Silva. “A great guy. He’s playing with a smile on his face, he keeps working hard every single day. He’s enjoying every single moment with us. We are enjoying every single moment working with him.
“I know he wants more. He knows that he always has me behind him to demand from him and give him confidence. He doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. Everyone knows his quality. He’s a class player.
“If I had had doubts (about his age), I would not have signed him. About his quality, it’s impossible (to have doubts). I want him to have some days with us to feel, to create connections, myself with him, the staff with him, and him with his team-mates.
“What he’s doing for us is not a surprise. You see it week in, week out. I am a privileged guy because I can see it every single day.”
Fulham were given an unexpected boost when Forest lost both of their central defenders to injury in the seventh minute, the earliest a Premier League side has had to make two substitutions in the competition’s history.
Willy Boly and Scott McKenna were forced off with hamstring injuries in a cruel and unusual twist for Steve Cooper’s team, whose five-match unbeaten sequence in the league came to an end in west London.
Forest struggled to impose an attacking threat against their hosts, barring a late flourish when Emmanuel Dennis drew a point-blank save from Bernd Leno, but Cooper refused to use his side’s early misfortune as an excuse.
“It wouldn’t be right,” said Cooper. “But it was unfortunate, I’ve never seen it before. Same position, same action, same injury. I hope it never happens again. There was a bit of sorting out.
“You only really change centre-backs for injury, so to do it so early on was strange. It was two attacking changes less that we could make in the second half.
“We won’t hide behind it as the reason for the result. I felt in the first half we didn’t take the game to Fulham as we should. There was an opportunity, but we didn’t play forward quickly enough or play with enough belief.”