League games under the night lights traditionally feel a bit more magical than weekend fixtures, but the Lions were under the spell of Fulham as their wizardry on the ball left us chasing shadows....
Midweek league football was back at The Den, and under the lights and TV cameras of an international audience, the Lions had the chance to show that their recent additions to our squad were capable of challenging with the elite of the division. What better team to test ourselves against then the recently relegated Fulham, who have a war chest of talent at their disposal, and are a lot of pundits favourites to bounce back to the Premier League at the first chance of asking? The fans were in their seats as Let 'Em Come around the stadium and Millwall had their gloves on ready to bloody the noses of our West London opposition, but unfortunately for Garry Rowett, it was the team from SW6 who had the home side on the ropes from the very start.
The fans were still finishing their Carlsbergs in the West, East and South stands, and nearly ended up spilling their warm alcoholic beverages over their feet when Aleksander Mitrovic opened the scoring for Fulham in the opening 180 seconds, after Fabio Carvalho was given the freedom of SE16 and managed to cut the ball back into the path of the West London's number nine and it got worse less than five minutes later...
Creator for the first became the scorer of Fulham's second, when Carvalho was played through by Neeskens Kebano and he managed to easily slip past Millwall defender Murray Wallace. Wallace was left chasing shadows and could only stand with his jaw open as the young attacker buried the ball past Bialkowski at the near post. Millwall had been knocked to the canvas twice in the opening round, and if this was a boxing match, then Gary Rowett would have had one hand on the towel with the intention of throwing it in the ring to survive another day.
The Lions were lucky to be second best to their superior opponents for the remainder of the half, and although the price tags of each sides were vastly different, Millwall did not appear at the races and gave off the impression of being disjointed, unorganised and sloppy every time they had the ball. Passes were not meeting their destinations and were either going out for throw-ins or to their opponents in white.
Fulham could have easily been out of sight at half time, but a Carvalho effort was hit wide of the target and the onslaught did not stop in the second half, leaving Bartosz Bialkowski continuously pulling off save after save to try and keep the score line respectable.
Millwall's goal came very late in the second half, and although Benik Afobe has now opened his scoring account for the South London side, it was a goal that resulted in a very flattering scoreline for the Lions in a game where there was only ever going to be one winner. Fulham remain top of the league and Millwall now have only a disappointing two points from their opening three games.
We Need To Know?!!!
Tactical Masterclass, too much quality or Millwall underperforming?
Repeatedly on social media last night and in the stands, one sentence was ringing out and infectious to anyone who heard it: "they are worth over £100,000,000 and we are worth only about £6,000,000." That may be the case, and this game may have been a big ask for Gary Rowett's team, but the lack of fight until very late on will be a worry for the Millwall manager. The Lions have been outplayed before at home, but not at the level where we were so decimated so early.
Efficient and foot off the gas?
Fulham flew out of the blocks at the first whistle and were playing with Millwall like a cat plays with a captured mouse, but could the score line have been worse if the away side really wanted to? Fulham were never under any pressure and were never troubled, so did they decide just to keep the ball and try different things like you would in training instead of try to finish us off?
Romeo, Romeo. Where does this leave our Romeo?
Mahlon Romeo has been a fantastic servant for the club and has rightly received wonderful plaudits for his performances, but with the emergence of Danny McNamara and recent inconsistent performances, is it time for Rowett to consider looking at bids for our number 12?
Benik Afobe - when are we going to play to his strengths?
Every game this season has seen our loanee either chasing lost causes or trying to bring down high balls with whatever part of his anatomy he could. But last night, every time he got the ball to feet, he looked composed, calm and laid off some nice passes. Why do we not do this more often and stop with the long ball to him?