Coming off of the awful night out versus Luton, Coventry would not have been looking forward to this game. In midweek, Coventry were beaten by quick Luton counter-attacks mostly down the Coventry left. Fulham's style is different, opting for possession in a structured 1-4-3-3 and choosing to use fullbacks Robinson and Odoi to overload the attack. Pre-game, 4 changes would have been a cause for concern due to a perceived lack of depth, but a returning captain Kelly would say otherwise.
In the opening exchanges, Fulham release Robinson down the left with speed. Coventry were very well organized, with the usual line of 5 across the back and the center of the field covered.
Fulham scored on 17, having had 60% of possession, but their build up often relied on central play through Reed. Cast your memory back to Brentford in February and Coventry winning 2-0 with a very efficient press and counter-attack. The writing was on the wall as Kelly wins the ball from Reed here and releases Godden to counter attack.
It felt as though Fulham could turn up the dial whenever. The build up to the goal was a prime example. Having been stifled several times centrally, as above, Mitrovic checks into the center to receive the ball from Ream. In doing so, the Coventry front 5 are beaten with a pass outside to the speedy Robinson.
Just 7 seconds later, the Fulham attack is behind the Coventry midfield, with the ball scrambled out for a corner.
The Fulham threat seemed to affect Coventry to the point that it looked like Luton in phases. Simple passes were misplaced for an 80% completion rate with Ben Sheaf and Liam Kelley controlling most of the possession for Coventry.
When Coventry were organized on the ball, they struggled to break the 1-4-1-4-1 of Fulham. Reed dropped below the midfield four to track the runs of O'Hare meaning City had very little opportunities ahead of the ball. Maatsen was the one bright spark with 4 crosses, though Coventry had little to show for it with 7 out of 8 shots blocked in the first half.
Into half time and the game was fairly poised. Coventry remained resolute in pressing against the Fulham build up, leaving Fulham to just one shot on target and regularly limiting any play in the final third.
In reflection, it felt like Coventry did to Fulham what Luton did to Coventry just 4 days prior. The first goal for Coventry came from a Fulham mistake and just after half time. Ream receives the ball, takes a bad touch, Onomah checks in to 'help' and as they take each other out O'Hare lays the ball to Gyokeres for a simple tap in.
Game on and Coventry are buoyed.
Just two minutes later and it's all Coventry. Fulham, clearly unsettled by the goal give the ball away centrally. Coventry attempted to play through with O'Hare and Gyokeres, but when Reed picks up the ball he plays back into trouble and Kelly wins the ball back. The quick recycle from Coventry releases Dabo and ensuing chaos leads to the penalty. Fulham's preference to possess hurts them again.
At 2-1, Fulham ramped up their game and with 79% possession they hunted for an equalizer. Again, Robinson was the outlet as a deeper Coventry defense invited pressure forward. This time, Cordova-Reid picked up the ball for Fulham as the Coventry line dropped. Kebano gets on the ball and Robinson's run makes a 2v1 against Dabo resulting in a dangerous cross that is gathered by Moore.
The third goal comes from a Coventry long kick that Fulham cannot get a hold of. Maatsen switches to Dabo, who in turn crosses and the second ball falls for Maatsen to strike it firm and make it 3-1.
Goal four sums up the performance for both sides. Cavaleiro, introduced just 2 minutes before this image, loses the ball in a 1v1 against Dabo. His pass finds Godden who immediately looks behind the Fulham backline for the goal-hungry Gyokeres to capitalize on another excellent counterattack.
Whilst Fulham’s possession suited the Coventry set up for pressing, they also played somewhat predictably. Often the ball went high into the wide forwards (Kebano or Wilson) and then Odoi or Robinson would overlap and support. One might wonder if the intense pressing is becoming a Coventry second half tactic as opponents rarely change up their approach to games. Here, Wilson is trying to make something happen with Mitrovic dropping deep to get on the ball. Coventry block this moment out and immediately counter.
Right now we're heading into another international break feeling very good about sitting third in the Championship, and this piece didn't even touch on: Sheaf and Kelly holding the team together.
Dabo's strong return. Godden's excellent mobility and eye for opportunity.
Stats from whoscored.com