Report | Fulham 3 Swansea City 1
The marksmanship of Aleksandar Mitrovic proved the difference as Swansea City fell to defeat in an entertaining clash with Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Serbian forward Mitrovic had scored all of Fulham’s goals against the Swans two seasons ago, and repeated the feat here as his first-half treble gave the hosts the points.
The Swans had pulled it back to 2-1 through a superb finish from Jamie Paterson, and they had chances to get something from the game, with Flynn Downes and Ethan Laird among those to go close.
The visitors also had the lion’s share of possession, but it was the clinical finishing of the hosts - who are among the fancied promotion favourites given the majority of their squad were playing in the Premier League last term - that ultimately settled the contest.
Head coach Russell Martin had named an unchanged 18 from the weekend win over Huddersfield, and the Swans showed bright signs in the opening exchanges; a Jake Bidwell header nearly finding Joel Piroe the right side of his marker, while Olivier Ntcham and Laird were lively.
At the other end, referee Joshua Smith waved away a penalty appeal as Harry Wilson went to ground with Ryan Manning in close attendance.
It was proving as entertaining a contest as both bosses had predicted, and Paterson made an important interception after Neeskens Kebano had got away from Ben Cabango on the left and rolled a ball back towards the edge of the area.
However, there was nothing anyone could do to prevent Mitrovic opening the scoring. A powerful header back into the box found the Serbian in what replays suggested was an offside position.
But the flag remained down, and the striker turned inside Kyle Naughton to fire home past Ben Hamer.
Hamer denied the Cottagers’ main man by holding his header from a Joe Bryan cross before Cabango was booked for hauling back Kebano.
Fulham were threatening to extend their lead. Kebano fired at Hamer, while Bobby Decordova-Reid wasted a superb counter-attack by firing Mitrovic’s perfectly-weighted pass over the bar.
And Swansea’s cause was not helped when they lost Ntcham to what appeared to be a hamstring injury on the half-hour mark.
Korey Smith came on for the Frenchman, but he had barely had time to break sweat when Mitrovic struck again.
Kebano got free down the left after a loose pass and his cross was rolled into the far corner of the net.
Swansea looked to respond with a sharp move, but Smith was left frustrated when his threatening cross found not a single coral shirt advancing to try and get on the end of it.
But the Swans pulled one back with eight minutes to go until the interval with a magnificent goal from Paterson.
Piroe dropped deep, spun away from three white shirts and sent the midfielder racing in on goal.
He elected not to shoot first time, instead turning away from Denis Odoi and Paulo Gazzaniga before finding the far corner.
The goal sparked a better spell for the visitors, but they were dealt a hammer blow right on half-time.
Fulham beat the Swansea press with the help of a deflection and broke away for Odoi to fizz a low cross into the box and Mitrovic complete a first-half hat-trick with a left-footed finish.
Four minutes after the restart and the visitors should have been back within one goal. Laird driving forward and picking out Downes with his pull-back, only for the midfielder to wastefully spoon over the bar from 12 yards.
Laird took on a shot himself a few moments later, with his left-footed effort clipping off Harrison Reed and crunching against the post.
Matt Grimes then looked to work room when a shot was on after Reed had been robbed just outside his own box, with the Swans knowing they needed to make an opportunity count if they were to set up a grandstand finish.
As Swansea committed more bodies forward so it left space for Fulham and Hamer made an excellent save to deny Odoi.
Martin's men continued to push but, in the end, the evening ended in defeat.
Fulham: Paulo Gazzaniga; Denis Odoi, Tosin Adarabioyo, Tim Ream (captain), Joe Bryan (Alfie Mawson 56); Harrison Reed, Jean-Michael Seri; Harry Wilson (Ivan Cavaleiro 71), Bobby Decordova-Reid; Neeskens Kebano; Aleksandar Mitrovic (Rodrigo Muniz 69).
Unused Substitutes: Marek Rodak, Michael Hector, Domingos Quina, Josh Onomah.
Swansea City: Ben Hamer; Ben Cabango, Kyle Naughtin, Ryan Manning; Ethan Laird, Flynn Downes (Liam Cullen 68), Matt Grimes (captain), Jake Bidwell (Joel Latibeaudiere 74); Olivier Ntcham (Korey Smith 31), Jamie Paterson; Joel Piroe.
Unused Substitutes: Steven Benda, Jay Fulton, Brandon Cooper, Liam Walsh.