Mighty Mitrovic helps Fulham snatch a draw against Watford
Hosts salvage an unlikely point after Hornets dominate first half at Craven Cottage
Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates his equaliser for Fulham against Watford. Photograph: David Klein/Reuters
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s second-half equaliser earned Fulham a 1-1 draw at home to high-flying Watford.
The Serbia striker flicked home his fifth goal of the season with 12 minutes remaining at Craven Cottage to deny the visitors a fifth win from six Premier League games.
Andre Gray had opened the scoring inside two minutes but the Hornets had to settle for a point after spurning a number of chances to double their advantage.
Whites boss Slavisa Jokanovic, facing his former club for the first time since leaving Vicarage Road in 2015, almost saw his side snatch a late winner when Mitrovic’s header was tipped on to the crossbar by Ben Foster.
Watford, beaten by Manchester United last weekend, named an unchanged line-up for the sixth successive top-flight match.
The hosts approached the game with the worst defensive record in the division and Jokanovic shuffled his backline, bringing in Calum Chambers and Timothy Fosu-Mensah in place of Denis Odoi and Cyrus Christie.
Their defensive fragility was immediately exposed as they conceded for a 13th time this campaign.
Jose Holebas’ throw-in caused indecision on the edge of the Whites’ box and Gray latched on to Will Hughes’ through-ball to calmly slot his third goal of the season past Marcus Bettinelli.
It was an open, attacking start to the game and the hosts almost drew level when Luciano Vietto raced on to Andre Schurrle’s pass only to be denied by goalkeeper Foster and curl a follow-up effort narrowly wide.
Hornets captain Troy Deeney then had a close-range attempt repelled by Bettinelli, while Fulham were lucky Christian Kabasele’s goalbound diving header from a Holebas corner struck Ryan Sessegnon.
Jokanovic called for his players to be braver in the aftermath of the 3-0 loss at champions Manchester City and they continued to leave gaps at the back.
Gray should have doubled his tally when he fired straight at Bettinelli after Alfie Mawson made a mess of a long ball forward.
The home side could have been down to 10 men in the 32nd minute when Fosu-Mensah escaped with only a yellow card following a dangerous, studs-up challenge on Deeney.
Fulham’s fortune appeared to continue. Defender Mawson, who had already been booked for a challenge on Roberto Pereyra, slid in on Hughes in the box without touching the ball but referee Martin Atkinson waved away the penalty appeals.
A half-time appearance from Fulham great Clint Dempsey — who recently retired from football — lifted the spirits of the home faithful.
Their mood could have improved significantly four minutes into the second period but top scorer Mitrovic headed over after meeting Schurrle’s right-wing cross.
Watford began to drop deeper and were struggling to retain possession, although they remained a threat going forward. Gray forced a low save out of Bettinelli, before Deeney poked wide after breaking into the box.
Fulham were heading for a fourth defeat of the campaign until Vietto beat Daryl Janmaat to the ball on the left and squared for Mitrovic to prod in at the near post.
The hosts nearly won it in the final minute of normal time but, after Mitrovic nodded powerfully towards goal, Foster’s fingertips pushed the ball on to the bar.