During Carlos Vinicius’s season-long loan at Tottenham in 2021, many observers were left amused when, one cold January night, he cracked out the Kylian Mbappe arms-folded celebration after scoring an FA Cup hat-trick against eighth-tier Marine.
It took the 28-year-old just three minutes to score the game’s only goal after coming off the bench, sealing Fulham’s first home win of the season.
Last season Vinicius scored five Premier League goals, including the winner against rivals Chelsea at Craven Cottage. Saturday was his first appearance of the new season, and he certainly made it count.
Raul Jimenez, a £5million summer signing from Wolves, has started every game but is still yet to score for his new club. Marco Silva was frosty when asked last month whether Jimenez could adequately reproduce Aleksandar Mitrovic’s goals.
Jimenez once scored 17 League goals in a season for Wolves and has netted 33 times for Mexico, but has not been the same player since fracturing his skull in a match against Arsenal in November 2020. Against Luton, he was again ineffectual.
The case for giving Vinicius a run-out was already strong before the international break. Following another difficult day for Jimenez and a match-winning cameo from Vinicius, pressure is mounting on Silva to promote the Brazilian to a starting role.
“The dynamic he brought in we needed in that moment”, said Silva. “Competition between them is always important.”
Harrison Reed was similarly impressed, saying: “Vinny came on and made the impact. I’m delighted for him — a really good character in the dressing room and a popular player. He looked knackered after his celebration!
“I can’t speak highly enough of him. He’s come in and had to be patient last season with Mitro the main man. When he got his game-time, he was brilliant. This season, the same. Raul has come in and started the first few games, but Vinny has shown off the bench what an impact he can be for us.”
If Vinicius was the only goalscorer at Craven Cottage, it was another 28-year-old who produced the most complete performance of the afternoon.
Joao Palhinha, fresh from signing a contract extension until 2028 with an optional further year, was back in the Fulham team and back to his combative best.
He won more tackles, more aerial duels and more overall duels than any other player as home fans purred at the sort of virtuoso display that will surely tempt Bayern Munich back in January following their rejected £56m deadline-day bid.
“Everyone can feel it’s a massive boost that we’ve not only managed to keep hold of Joao in this window but that he’s committed his long-term future to the club”, his midfield partner Reed explained.
“An enormous boost for the team, the club, and the fans. The future is looking positive.”