It is a certain irony that Fulham spent January searching the transfer market for a goalscorer, only to discover they had one sitting at home the entire time.
Rodrigo Muñiz’s scoring streak began two days after the window closed, at Burnley, and continued emphatically here. His industry created Harry Wilson’s opener. His instinct received the second, as he nodded at Wilson’s whipped pitch.
That’s five goals out of five for the Brazilian, a remarkable streak considering he hadn’t scored all season before February.
For Marco Silva’s Fulham, this victory represents much-needed consistency, backing up their away victory over Manchester United last week to ensure they recorded back-to-back wins for the second time this season.
With Brighton traveling to Rome on Thursday for their first-ever European qualifier, Roberto De Zerbi could perhaps be forgiven for not losing sight of the trip to his homeland. He pointed out the changes here, with just two survivors from the midweek defeat to Wolves. Surprisingly, the league’s top assist scorer, Pascal Gross, stayed on the bench.
Fulham winger Harry Wilson opened the scoring against Brighton in the 21st minute.
Wilson intervened from the right and sent a left footed shot into the corner of the net.
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Still, the Italian will see this as a wasted opportunity to move within a point of sixth-placed Manchester United, with a particular concern being the defensive weaknesses of an experienced backline.
Brighton adopted a familiar pattern, with plenty of possession but little penetration, as Fulham looked to break quickly when given the opportunity.
Muniz was behaving like a threat with every long pass, and it paid off just after 20 minutes when Fulham pushed the ball forward and Muniz hit Adam Webster in the air.
When the ball was released, he advanced before Estupiñán to play in Wilson.
The defense was sloppy, the finish was the opposite. Wilson cut inside and doubled a left-footed shot past Jason Steele.
Adam Lallana and Julio Enciso went close with long-range shots that went over the bar, but Brighton’s initial control was losing steam and Muniz and Wilson soon combined again to double the lead.
Pereira started the play, driving up the middle and playing to Harrison Reed, who found Wilson on the right. Wilson’s cross was perfect and headed home to Muñiz, who was unlikely to miss during this rich run of form.
Rodrigo Muñiz (right) doubled Fulham’s lead with a header in the 32nd minute.
A Wilson cross was headed in by Muñiz and the striker scored his fifth goal in six games.
Wilson was given plenty of space on the right side and twice had the chance to lose sight of Brighton just after the break, first with a shot that deflected slightly and then with a shot blocked at the near post after some work. finest. from Muñiz.
Brighton were all at sea at the back and opened up again when Andreas Pereira broke the high line, but faltered one-on-one with Steele.
While De Zerbi’s starting XI may look very different in Rome on Thursday, he will be concerned that Webster’s back three of Lewis Dunk and Joel Veltman, three stalwarts from last season, have struggled so much here.
Dunk was removed before the hour and Gross entered, with a rescue task on his hands.
However, they almost grabbed a lifeline when Adam Lallana passed to Evan Ferguson, but his effort missed inches wide.
The Irishman hasn’t scored since November and his frustration was evident as he hunched over and rested his hands on his knees.
Ferguson had another chance five minutes later and another chance was wasted when he found space in the box but his shot flew straight at Leno.
The introduction of Gross had at least injected some impetus into Brighton’s game as they looked for a way back into the game.
Substitute Facundo Buonanotte came close to scoring with 12 minutes left, with a shot that hit the bottom of Leno’s post.
Adama Traoré finished off a quick counterattack to score Fulham’s first goal
Evan Ferguson saw an attempt go just past the post and the second well saved by Bernd Leno.
Brighton left space behind and were punished again in injury time when Adama Traore, with fresh legs, broke free and put the exclamation point on a convincing result.
Muñiz was taken off with seven minutes remaining to a standing ovation from Craven Cottage. His replacement was Armando Broja, the man Fulham signed on deadline day to solve the problem of putting the ball in the net.
Instead, it is Muñiz who provides those answers and Broja may be limited to substitute appearances for the foreseeable future.