Mitrovic’s 100 goals for Fulham: How a hasty loan signing became a modern legend

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Fulham have had their fair share of footballing heroes over the years. But in the modern era, none come close to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s brilliant goalscorer.

On Saturday, Serbia’s all-time top scorer added another layer to his legacy in west London. In the 56th minute of his 181st appearance, he scored his 100th goal for Fulham. Only seven other men have reached that milestone for the club in its entire history, and Mitrovic is the first in almost 40 years.

Fulham’s All-Time Top Scorers

Player Time Goals

Gordon Davies

1978-84, 1986-91

178

Johnny Haynes

1952-70

158

Bedford Jezzard

1948-57

154

Jim Hammond

1928-38

150

Graham Leggat

1958-66

134

Arthur Stevens

1941-59

124

Steve Earle

1963-74

108

Aleksandar Mitrovic

2018-present

100

It’s a remarkable feat that only reinforces his untouchable status at the club.

“It’s a good number,” Mitrovic said, speaking to Athleticism after the game. “I’m very happy to have scored 100 goals for this fine club. I hope I will score many more to make these fans happy.

“I have a lot of good memories in the past, and I hope I will have a lot of good ones in the future. We have so many good and bad memories, but you know, it’s a great love between me and the club and the fans and I love everything about this club. I hope to score a lot of goals and make the fans and everyone at the club happy.

Mitrovic already does, almost every week now. Against Arsenal, he stalked defender Gabriel, seized the ball and hid it with familiar ease.

“It’s something we practiced during the week,” he explains. “We tried to rush them from the start. I pressed well, but the team pressed well.

“I tried to bet on the direction he would go, and I was right. I got the ball and put it in the net. It was a really nice goal.”

Mitrovic is now as much part of Fulham’s furnishings as Craven Cottage itself.

The 27-year-old has come a long way since signing a hasty loan deadline in January 2018 when he nearly joined Anderlecht, only for that move to fall apart in the 11th hour.

His goalscoring record tells the story of his time near the Thames. Initially, it took him a while to get going. He waited four games before finally scoring his first goal for the club; the arrival of a poacher inside the penalty area at Ashton Gate, February 21, 2018.

From that moment on, he did not look back. In that debut season, he scored 12 goals as Fulham propelled to promotion via the play-offs under Slavisa Jokanovic. There would be 11 more in a difficult Premier League season, before landing 26 under Scott Parker en route to another promotion. Another difficult season in the Premier League followed, where he fell out of favor with the current Bournemouth boss and was limited to three goals in a year, but he was given a new lease of life under Marco Silva, under whom he has got an astonishing 43 goals in a single league season.

The goals show no signs of drying up after the promotion.

“Every goal is special,” he said. “Every goal is different. No matter how you score, every goal is important and the most important thing is to put the ball in the net. Sometimes you do it in a nice way, sometimes you don’t. But that’s my job.

After that first goal, Bristol City would concede four more to Mitrovic over the years. They were not, however, his favorite opponents. Swansea and Luton hold that badge of honour, conceding seven each, while Tottenham, Liverpool and now Arsenal are now among its casualties. There was still room for goals against local rivals QPR and Brentford, who conceded six goals between them.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the vast majority of Mitrovic’s 100 goals at Fulham – 97 to be exact – have come from inside the penalty area. This is Mitrovic’s main territory, where he plunders for goals and earns his living. He has animal instincts in the penalty area and knows how to be in the right place at the right time.

Only three goals have been scored outside the box. They have been rare, but for those lucky enough to see them, they have often been memorable. His second goal for the club was scored from distance and is arguably his best of the lot. It was his first at Craven Cottage, and it was a mix of skill, power and technique.

It took place against league leaders Wolves on February 24, 2018. He received the ball with his back to goal and ignored the attentions of Conor Coady. He then sells three defenders with a dummy to go inside, which opened up space for the shot, before kicking the ball into the net. As Virgil van Dijk can now attest, Mitrovic isn’t all muscle.

Even so, Mitrovic’s trademark is his aerial ability. He scored 30 goals with his head. Target attacker par excellence, he combines his obvious strength with an impressive leap, always at the right time and precise.

Many full-backs and centre-backs have suffered under his shadow, from Trent Alexander-Arnold earlier this season (goal No 96) to Brighton’s Lewis Dunk, who had a torrid time in 2018 trying to keep Mitrovic at bay during of a rare Premier League victory. in 2018-19 (objectives n°21 and n°22). Curtis Davies once tried to stop him by wrapping his arm around his neck mid-air, but even that didn’t stop the ball from hitting the back of the net (goal 36).

He had many memorable moments. From his last-minute winner against Swansea City, where he sent a header crashing over the bar after missing a penalty (goal No 46) to hitting back against Ivan Toney after the Brentford striker scored and mimicked his celebration (goal #99) Last week. “Maybe I’m his idol,” he then joked.

Mitrovic scored his first hat-trick against Luton Town (goals Nos. 32-34), his only hat-trick in his first 50 goals – which you can relive in full here. He would score three more hat-tricks last season, in a campaign he and Fulham will never forget.

Goal 54 was the most comical, but also marked a turning point. After a crazy backpass was saved by Huddersfield goalkeeper Ryan Schofield, Mitrovic was on hand to deflect his poor clearance, after sliding, into the net.

It would be the first of 43 last season, a tally which saw him overtake Guy Whittingham for the most goals in a 46-game second-tier season, and become the first player to score that many since Leyton Orient’s Tommy Johnston and Blackburn in 1957-58. He also equaled a club record of 43 in a season, held by Frank Newton since 1932.

This goal, the 95, underlined his talent for timing. It was the last goal of a phenomenal winning season, capping off a third 7-0 win of the season, and assured, of course, in stoppage time. He knows when to make his mark.

Fittingly, that goal was helped by Harry Wilson. Wilson was key to Mitrovic’s exploits last season, providing 10 assists in total. Behind Wilson is stalwart Joe Bryan, who scored eight goals for his teammate, most of which are on his way to promotion in 2019-20.

Feeding Mitrovic

Player Aids

Harry Wilson

ten

Joe Bryan

8

Neeskens Kebano

5

Tom Cairney

5

Kenny Head

4

Ryan Sessegnon

4

Stefan Johansen

4

Aboubakar Kamara

3

Fabio Carvalho

3

Ivan Cavaleiro

3

Jean Michael Seri

3

Antoine Knockaert

2

Bobby DeCordova-Reid

2

Denis Odoi

2

Josh Onomah

2

Luciano Vietto

2

Cyrus Christie

1

Kevin Mbabu

1

Maxime Le Marchand

1

neco williams

1

Ryan Frederick

1

Tim Rame

1

Tomas Kalas

1

Over these 100 goals, Mitrovic has evolved. Numerically, he found consistency in his early years. He thrives in attacking teams, highlighted by his comebacks under Jokanovic and now Silva, who play to his strengths. “You have to get the best out of your players,” Silva said after Mitrovic’s brace against Liverpool. “Mitro has its own profile. It’s up to us to deliver for him, to get the best out of him.

So far, this approach brings goals for both Mitrovic and Fulham. He has already surpassed his season tally from two years ago and looks set to match his 11-goal comeback in a dysfunctional 2018-19 campaign.

One thing is clear, it is unlikely to stop at 100 years. Last summer, the fan favorite signed a new five-year contract, promising his best years at the west London club. He feels at home at Fulham and the love expressed by the fans is mutual.

At 27, it’s clear there’s more to come.

“This club may not be the biggest in the world, but it has a soul, a passion,” Mitrovic told The Athletic last year. “This club is like a small family. It has a great history. I have an incredible bond with this club. I feel really comfortable, really loved, welcome, when I step onto the pitch.

(Photo: Paul Harding/Getty Images)

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