Jamaican internationals Bobby Decordova-Reid and Michael Hector took a step closer to returning to compete in the top flight after helping Fulham to a 2-0 success over Cardiff City in their opening Championship play-off match last night (27 July).
Fabulous Fulham dominated their semi-final first leg at the Cardiff City Stadium in Wales, with Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano on target, and host the second leg at Craven Cottage on Thursday (30 July).
The Jamaican duo will be vying for a place in the English Premier League (EPL) if they can help Fulham reach the play-off final at Wembley on 4 August, when the pair could tackle either Brentford or Swansea in a match that is estimated to be worth over £100m to the team that is promoted.
Hector came to Fulham’s rescue on 13 minutes, the first goal-scoring opportunity in a cagey opening period, with a brilliant goal-line clearance. Leandro Bacuna’s drive was parried by keeper Marek Rodak, with Robert Glatzel gifted the chance to poke the loose ball into the empty net only for quick thinking Hector to sensationally deal with the danger.
This jolted the London club into action and they turned on the style to give Cardiff City the runaround, but were not rewarded until the 49th-minute for their superiority with Onomah’s opener.
Bristol-born striker Decordova-Reid, given a starting berth as Golden Boot-winning forward Aleksandar Mitrovic was injured, came close to doubling their tally on the hour-mark. A long ball found Onomah, who in turn picked out the frontman only for the 27-year-old to fizz his fierce half-volley narrowly over the gaping target.
Kebano snatched a long overdue second goal in the opening minute of stoppage time, delicately curling his free-kick over the wall and into the back of the net to hand Fulham a clear advantage.
Decordova-Reid, who in recent years changed his surname from Reid, has represented Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz four times since scoring on his debut against Antigua & Barbuda last year. The former Cardiff City ace scored five goals in 27 EPL games during the 2018-19 campaign, and played one Championship match for the Welsh side before initially moving to Fulham on loan. Decordova-Reid signed a three-and-a-half year contract with ambitious Fulham in January.
Hector, whose father Pat played first-class cricket three times for Essex in 1977, has never competed in the EPL although he signed a deadline day deal for Chelsea in September 2015. After he joined Chelsea the London-born defender was on the radar of the Boyz and he has since made over 20 appearances under head coach Theodore Whitmore.
However, Hector failed to represent Chelsea competitively in four seasons with the club. Last September it was announced that he would join Fulham for an undisclosed fee in the January 2020 transfer window. The 28-year-old has been a journeyman throughout his career, having been loaned out to 15 clubs, with his last outings in the top tier at Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga during the 2016-17 campaign.
Hector and Decordova-Reid, likely to be part of Jamaica’s forthcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the 2022 finals in Qatar, will be hoping that history will repeat itself for Fulham who won their Championship play-off final against Aston Villa in 2018.
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