Fulham strengthened their position at the top of the Sky Bet Championship with a 1-0 win at Hull.
The visitors had to work hard against stubborn opponents but Aleksander Mitrovic’s header after 57 minutes was enough to keep Marco Silva’s men six points clear of second-placed Bournemouth.
Mitrovic had until that stage rarely been involved, but his 31st goal of the season off Neco Williams’ excellent cross from the right underscored the difference in class between the two sides.
Fulham were arguably not at their free-flowing best, but former Hull manager Silva rarely had a moment of concern against determined, yet limited, rivals.
Hull have now lost three on the spin under new manager Shota Arveladze, whose side remain three places above the relegation zone.
In keeping with the flow of much of the game, Fulham began purposefully and soon quietened the home supporters with incisive football that suggested a quick goal was on the cards.
But despite their early domination, Silva’s side surprisingly failed to create a chance on goal inside the first 15 minutes and having subdued Fulham’s immediate blitz, Hull grew into the game.
Perhaps enthused by the visitors’ uncharacteristic lack of attacking guile, the Tigers were guilty of over-committing players in the final third after 20 minutes.
A long ball over the top should have been easily dealt with but goalkeeper Matt Ingram was forced into a sliding challenge with Harry Wilson outside of his penalty area. Wilson, formerly on loan at Hull, was far too quick for Ingram but he fired over the crossbar when more composure was required.
The Wales international wasted an even better chance six minutes later when he surged towards goal following Mitrovic’s deflected pass from deep.
Wilson should have passed to Neeskens Kebano across the face of goal but instead shot from a tricky angle, which was comfortably blocked by Ingram.
The former Liverpool winger then fired over the crossbar from a more difficult chance after good work from the outstanding Fabio Carvalho.
Hull, however, were not unduly troubled after a difficult start to the game and might even have opened the scoring five minutes before the break. A defensive mix-up towards the right of the penalty area led to the ball falling kindly towards Marcus Forss, who dragged wide from a decent position.
Fulham again started strongly after the interval, with Carvalho’s curling swivel-and hit on 57 minutes capably pawed away by Ingram for a corner.
That near miss seemed to re-energise Fulham, who then kicked on.
And once Mitrovic netted with a textbook header, there felt no way back for Hull.
Silva reverted to a more defensive approach once the Serbia international scored the winning goal, which sucked the life out of the hosts.
Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak was not once tested all game, until Richie Smallwood let fly with a half-chance from distance that was easily saved after 85 minutes.
That was as good as it got for Hull as Silva enjoyed a relaxed return to East Yorkshire.
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