Palace tasted their first defeat of pre-season at the sixth attempt as Fulham ran out 3-1 victors, despite Keshi Anderson pulling a goal back on his return to first-team action.
Goals either side of the interval by Sone Aluko and Matt Smith had put the hosts in control before Anderson, who had spent nearly a year out of action after getting injured on loan at Doncaster Rovers last season, pulled one back on 78 minutes, however Floyd Ayite rounded off the scoring with the last kick of the game as a busy week for Alan Pardew’s side containing three matches in six days ended with a loss.
The game was played a good pace with plenty of attacking intent, and that was on display early doors as Matt Smith headed straight at Julian Speroni after six minutes and seven later the returning Wilfried Zaha stole the ball from Kevin McDonald and dazzled down the left wing before centring across the face of goal, but Jordon Mutch, playing up front for the day, was a stud’s length away from prodding home the opener.
Chances continued to be created and both keepers were soon forced into good saves. Firstly Floyd Ayite powered through the Eagles defence to go one-on-one with Speroni but the Argentinian got down low to bloke his attempt to fire into the bottom corner, and at the other end a Jason Puncheon free-kick was met forcefully by the head of Scott Dann, but from point-blank range Jesse Joronen showed terrific reactions to push away what looked to be a certain goal.
On the half-hour mark Dann flashed another header wide from a Puncheon corner, but in the 36th minute it was the hosts who got their noses in front first. Tom Cairney cut out a Mile Jedinak pass on his chest and played a precise pass through the Eagles defence for Aluko to race onto, and he showed good composure to sell Speroni a dummy before tapping home to score on his first Whites appearance at Craven Cottage.
Zaha nearly restored parity instantly when he drove into the area and bashed a shot just wide but Pardew’s men would go into the break trailing, and another bright start to the second 45 failed to be capitalised on as Mutch once again was fractions away from converting a fine cross from Andros Townsend, but he finally got on the end of a delivery but his looped header from a Puncheon corner was easy for Joronen.
However 10 minutes into the second half Fulham doubled their lead in catastrophic circumstances for Palace. A cross from Aluko on the right looked to be routinely collected by Speroni but under pressure from Smith he let it roll between his legs and handed the attacker the easiest of chances to prod the ball into the empty net.
Connor Wickham and Puncheon then missed good chances to pull one back when the striker headed over before the winger sliced high and wide when well-placed to bury the opportunity, and with 20 minutes to go Scott Parker could have wrapped things up but he blazed wide when thread in by McDonald.
That gave Palace a glimmer of hope and 12 minutes they clawed their way back into the game when two of their youngsters combined to give Anderson the goal he deserved after 10 months of frustration on the sidelines. Jedinak and Luke Dreher – making his maiden first-team appearance – linked up in the centre of the park and the 17-year-old clipped the pass of the match into Anderson’s path, who showed courage to steer it past Joronen before clattering into the on-rushing keeper.
However the Cottagers nearly went two ahead again in the final stages when Lasse Vigen Christensen curled the ball inches past the post, and two minutes later the same man saw a shot blocked but the ball spun perfectly for Ayite to crash home but he lashed the chance over the top.
But in injury-time he did grab the third with the last kick of the game on the counter-attack after a Palace corner. Ayite pushed down the left and picked out Smith at the back post, and after Parker saw a shot blocked, Jonny Williams did fantastically to block Christensen’s rebound on the line, but Ayite was on hand to finish what he started and condemn Pardew’s side to defeat.
Fulham: Joronen, Odoi, Kalas, Madl, Sessegnon, Tunnicliffe (Parker 64), McDonald, Cairney, Ayité, Aluko (Stearman 85), Smith (Christensen 71). Sub not used: Rodak.
Palace: Speroni, Ward (Kelly 75), Dann, Delaney, Souare (Croll 71), Jedinak (Williams 82), Puncheon (Dreher 71), Zaha (Kaikai 78), Townsend (Lee 75), Bolasie (Wickham 45), Mutch (Anderson 62). Subs not used: Perntreou, Binnom-Williams, Wynter.