Ryan Sessegnon and Slavisa Jokanovic admit Fulham were taught some harsh lessons by Crystal Palace

Ed Malyon
The Independent

Fulham never looked out of their depth in their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace, despite a 2-0 defeat that taught them some harsh lessons about life in the top flight.

In fact, the Cottagers started the better side and dominated possession throughout, as you might expect from a Slavisa Jokanovic team. The continuity from last year in terms of style and quality was actually quite impressive, especially so when you consider that six new signings started with three more on the bench. Add in some familiarity and chemistry to this team and the feeling is that Fulham could have what it takes to stay clear of the relegation battle.

As always for newly-promoted sides, however, 40 points will be the first objective.

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Slavisa Jokanovic knows his side have lessons to learn (Reuters)

And after a game in which Fulham were reminded how ruthless Premier League opponents can be, their coach and players spoke of lessons they had already learnt and improvements they will need to imminently put into place.

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"It's different to the Championship," said Ryan Sessegnon, who was shackled all afternoon by Palace's impressive Aaron Wan-Bissaka. "I basically had less time on the ball; it's just how you adapt, hopefully in the coming games I can adapt.

"The pace of the game's quicker, you have to be clinical, you have to be smart... We had the chances, we didn't take them, and credit to Palace – they did and they won the game."

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Wilfried Zaha was superb in the 2-0 win over Fulham (Getty)

As Sessegnon so succinctly put it, being clinical was something that Palace were and Fulham weren't, though one of Wayne Hennessey's finest performances in four years as an Eagles had something to do with that. Jeffrey Schlupp slammed home one goal on the counter-attack in the first half and Wilfried Zaha did the same in the second to win this game for the visitors though Zaha and Christian Benteke could easily have added more.

“First of all we are not in the Championship, this is the Premier League," said Jokanovic emphatically post-match,

"I believe my team showed different positive things. I believe too we can improve definitely after this kind of result, we must improve many things.

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"I believe we can improve" said Jokanovic after a 2-0 defeat (Getty Images)

“We showed, more or less, the style that we want to follow. On another side, we must adapt ourselves, we must mentally adapt ourselves and say we are going to find more power, more quality. The mistakes we made in the past, they are going to be more expensive than in the Championship.

“We need to build a Premier League team. We are ready to do this. Two players played today after only two days with us - they are going to be better.”

Whether those players should have started in the first place becomes the debate, but not one that is worth digging too deep into given the surprising cohesion with which the Cottagers played on Saturday. Roy Hodgson, as wily a coach as they come, fielded a Palace team full of Premier League experience and with no new signings to offer the complete antidote to what Jokanovic had gone for on opening day. It was Palace's know-how and deadly counter-attacking, led by the irrepressible Wilfried Zaha, that accounted for Fulham as it did so many more established Premier League sides down the stretch last season. Fulham won't be the last, either, with Palace having kept together a squad that is perfectly built to hit teams on the break.

And that is why, despite defeat, the attitude around Craven Cottage remained pretty positive, with expectations tempered, perhaps, by a dose of reality.

“It was exciting. A great atmosphere," said Jokanovic. "You can feel it’s a different level, everything. A better opposition, a tougher situation for us. Some challenge for me personally and some challenge for my players and for the club. And for our supporters, too. They know what is this level, they know it is not going to be easy. They are going to push strong and hard to encourage us and to a better level than we had today.”

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