Nelson Oliveira’s brilliant late finish gave Norwich a deserved point in a thrilling season-opener at Craven Cottage.
With the clock ticking down to full-time, substitute Oliveira brilliantly chested down a chipped pass from Wes Hoolahan, turned and slipped the ball under David Button with three defenders desperately trying to crowd him out.
It capped off a breathless, end-to-end match that could have easily have ended with a much larger scoreline.
City started with the same personnel and shape as the final pre-season friendly against Brighton, with Marley Watkins partnering Cameron Jerome up top. Yanic Wildschut and James Husband settled in as wing-backs, with Harrison Reed sitting behind James Maddison and Mario Vrancic in midfield. Russell Martin, Christoph Zimmermann and Marcel Franke formed a back three in front of Angus Gunn in goal.
Fulham started brightly, with Stefan Johansen missing two clear chances inside the first 10 minutes – first air-kicking from six yards and then dragging a shot well wide of Angus Gunn’s left post. City grew into the game, and Watkins went agonisingly close after nine minutes. Vrancic and Wildschut combined well to set up Watkins, but his goal-bound effort was blocked on the line.
With the Canaries settling – and Zimmermann dominating in the air – Vrancic went close from 10 yards but could only scoop the ball over the crossbar following a neat cutback from Wildschut. Two minutes later Watkins stabbed goalwards from the edge of the area but Button saved comfortably.
While Norwich looked threatening going forward, Fulham were finding joy down the flanks. Ryan Sessegnon benefitted from some open space to drive into the city area on the left. His cut-back ricocheted off the unfortunate Martin and squirmed past Gunn to give Fulham the lead.
The tempo didn’t die down after that, with Gunn saving brilliantly to his left from a Ryan Fredericks drive from only 10 yards.
An end-to-end period saw City almost equalise when Husband picked out Vrancic on the edge of the area on the left, but his drive whistled narrowly over the bar. Immediately after, Zimmermann’s last-ditch block denies Floyd Ayite, who then nodded over from the resulting corner.
It was then Maddison’s turn to go close, wriggling to find room in the penalty area before shooting just over with 10 minutes to go. There was still time for Gunn to pull off another excellent save at his near post before half-time.
Fulham almost doubled their lead shortly after the restart, with the excellent Ayite cutting in and powering a drive against the post. Three minutes later, Watkins should have done better from inside the area but his side-footed effort was straight at Button.
Daniel Farke made his first change after 59 minutes, with Josh Murphy coming on for Wildschut and five minutes later Nelson Oliveira replaced Cameron Jerome. City gradually began to take control of the match, and there were huge shouts for a penalty as Martin's volley from the right of the area struck Denis Odoi's arm but the referee waved it away.
Farke made one final throw of the dice, bringing on Wes Hoolahan for the excellent Harrison Reed. It was Hoolahan who conjured a bit of magic, spotting Oliveira’s run and chipping it perfectly into his path before Oliveira did the rest.
Both sides looked for a winner in the remaining few minutes, but a draw felt a fair result in a pulsating encounter.