Wayne Rooney netted on his 500th English league game but Aleksandar Mitrovic’s leveller spoiled the party as Fulham drew 1-1 at Derby.
The visitors had been firmly second-best at Pride Park as Derby deservedly led through Rooney’s penalty in his landmark appearance before Mitrovic netted a smart volley from Dennis Odoi’s cross with 19 minutes to go.
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Ten minutes into the second half, Tim Ream was adjudged to have handled a cross under pressure from Martyn Waghorn and Rooney showed the class which has underpinned his longevity with a coolly-struck Panenka.
Fulham keeper Marek Rodak walked away with the man-of-the-match award after saving well twice from Matt Clarke and Tom Lawrence before half-time. Then, after Mitrovic’s 71st-minute equaliser, Rodak denied Derby a late winner when he somehow clawed out Craig Forsyth’s looping effort from close-range.
Mitro has last laugh on Rooney’s big day
Fulham boss Scott Parker made four changes from the 3-0 home defeat by Barnsley last weekend, but kept faith with goalkeeper Rodek despite an error-laden performance in that defeat.
Parker was rewarded for his faith before half-time as a dominant Derby twice forced Rodek into fine saves. First, turning Clarke’s sliding effort away from danger and then stopping Tom Lawrence with an equally firm stop after he turned inside Odoi.
At the other end, Fulham struggled to find a way through a Derby defence which turned into a back five without the ball, and Ben Hamer, a replacement for the dropped Kelle Roos, was left untroubled.
Derby made four changes from their 1-1 with Huddersfield, including a recall from Ben Hamer ahead of Kelle Roos.
Scott Parker made the call to keep Marek Rodak in his line-up but also changed four players from Fulham’s 3-0 defeat to Barnsley, and gave Bobby Cordova-Reid the nod ahead of Ivan Cavaleiro in attack.
After the break, Fulham improved but still struggled with a final ball, before Ream’s handball gave Rooney a chance to mark his 500th English league game in the best possible fashion. He didn’t disappoint, chipping in from 12 yards for a goal worthy of the occasion.
It then looked like Derby would cruise to victory as Fulham continued to offer up very little, but with the Championship’s top scorer in their ranks they always carried a threat – Mitrovic kept his balance and turned a very average Odoi cross home on the half-volley.
In the final 20 minutes, the game finally opened up but Derby still had the lion’s share of the chances, none better than Forsyth’s effort after substutite Florian Jozefzoon had missed Tom Lawrence’s cross. His slightly scuffed effort still should have had the strength to beat Rodak, but the Czech goalkeeper was again on top form to push it clear.
A late Rooney cross threatened a chance for Jack Marriott but was turned away just before he could turn home from close-range, but Fulham held on to earn a draw.
What the managers said…
Derby manager Phillip Cocu: “I think we created some very good opportunities to score. Max Bird was man of the match for me, but their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves, that’s an important part of the team and it’s why we didn’t win the game.
“Rooney scored a penalty but also played a great game. Great skills, not only the technical part of the game but his vision and anticipation of situations is a pleasure to watch. The whole game, I just enjoyed the game. As a fan, you love to watch these kind of games. There’s disappointment we couldn’t win the game, we were very close but I’m happy with how we played.”
Fulham boss Scott Parker: “I thought the game was exactly how we saw it; for large parts we’d have a lot of control of it, first half we lacked a bit of an intent about us, but certainly we went a goal down and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed when that happens, we struggle a little bit.
“We’ve come here wanting to win the game, and we came knowing Derby have been very good at home. Recently we’ve lacked a control about us, and this team and my team need to play with a control, a good structure, and build up through those areas. I see my team getting back to where I want to be, control, and working good openings in both halves.”
Man of the match – Marek Rodak
Rodak had a point to prove after his performance against Barnsley on Saturday and he came up trumps – and was all that stood between Derby and three points.
His stop from Clarke was good, his save from Lawrence was better, but his hand to keep out Forsyth was the pick of the bunch. There were also two confident punches from Rooney corners aimed right onto his head – on a night where the hosts were all-too-happy to test his character, he passed with flying colours.
“If there’s one thing Marek has, it’s good character,” said manager Parker after the game. “He’s got a mentality about him, with the disappointment he had of making two mistakes last week I knew he’d still come in today and perform like he did. That’s what we’ve become used to seeing, and full credit to him.”
Derby travel to QPR on Tuesday night at 7.45pm, a game you can watch on Sky Sports Football via the Red Button. Fulham are also on the Red Button 24 hours later, when they host Swansea.