LONDON: When Fulham were awarded a penalty in the 36th minute at Leicester City on Monday their fans watching at home on TV might have been inclined to duck behind the sofa.
So lamentable has Fulham’s recent record from 12 yards been that having a penalty awarded in their favour has become a poisoned chalice for whoever lines up the shot.
Before Monday, Fulham had failed to convert five of their last eight penalty kicks in the league, including their last three. Three weeks ago Ademola Lookman had left manager Scott Parker fuming after attempting a “Panenka” chip in stoppage time when trailing 1-0 to West Ham United.
Then, in their last game, a 3-2 defeat by Everton, Ivan Cavaleiro slipped in his run-up and kicked the ball against his standing foot and watched in horror as his attempt ballooned up and over the crossbar.
So when Cavaleiro took hold of the ball after Christian Fuchs had fouled Bobby Decordova-Reid the stage was set for another entry into the “how to miss a penalty” back catalogue.
Instead, the Portuguese’s aim was firm and true and he drilled his effort past Kasper Schmeichel to double Fulham’s lead given to them by Lookman.
Parker could not hide his relief and it proved crucial too as Fulham won 2-1 to move out of the relegation zone.
“We’ve practised penalties all week, I asked (Cavaleiro) yesterday if he’s ready to take one tomorrow,” Parker said. “He looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘yeah, I’m ready.’
“The courage, the bravery after a slip, to step up there, they’re the things that we need. They’re the things that will determine what these players will become, how good they’ll become, and us as a team, what we’ll become.
“Cav putting his hand up, putting himself on offer to again be scrutinised. I’m not on Instagram or Twitter but I can only imagine what’s been said, the jokes at his expense.”
It was redemption too for Lookman who showed great coolness to put Fulham ahead after being played through after 30 minutes.
This time there was nothing fancy, just a neatly placed shot past Schmeichel.
“He came under a lot of stick three weeks ago for the penalty, and rightly so, like I said at the time, you have to take your medicine for that,” Parker added.
Lookman celebrated his goal in poignant fashion by running across to the touchline and raising the Senegal shirt of former Fulham player Papa Bouba Diop who died, aged 42, on Sunday.
“Ade showed his respect by scoring tonight and putting up the shirt, so that was pleasing,” Parker said. “For someone to lose their life at such a tender, young age is tragic.”