If they are not already, some big clubs will soon be taking notice of Joao Palhinha. His brilliance for Marco Silva’s Fulham is bittersweet, because every impeccable game brings his exit closer.
The Portuguese midfielder has a rare combination of grace and presence, tall enough to dominate any scrap but so tidy with his feet he rarely gives the ball away. He will not be flying under the radar for much longer if he continues to score goals like the opener here, a 25-yard screamer after Leeds’ Marc Roca showed little interest in fighting him for Tyler Adams’ loose pass.
At times Fulham moved the ball with fluid purpose, every inch the sixth-best team in the country. At others they rode their luck, reflecting a much-changed line-up, although Aleksandar Mitrovic’s inclusion dispelled any fears of concentrating on the league. He was frequently peripheral but teed up Manor Solomon for his fourth goal in as many games, another gorgeous curler from range.
Leeds were less aggressive with their pressing than under Javi Gracia’s predecessors but picked their moments. They attacked promisingly when breaking at speed, let down by ragged finishing and final balls. They had it in the net twice in the first half, a soft Weston McKennie push on Harry Wilson preventing the first, the second clearly offside. Tim Ream stood tall repeatedly to deny them during late flurries. Crysecnio Summerville toiled encouragingly but faded like his team, whose 20-year wait for a quarter-final spot continues.