Sheffield United will rue a string of missed first-half chances by Oli McBurnie after being held to a 1-1 draw with Fulham that leaves them winless after five games in the Premier League.
Having not picked up a point yet this season and a tough run of fixtures to come, the Blades went into this one desperate for all three points.
There was much excitement about United’s record signing Rhian Brewster, but the £23.5 million signing from Liverpool started from the bench and made little impact when he came on in the second half.
The home side were dealt an early blow when Premier League debutant Max Lowe was forced off after an early collision with Fulham’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The 23-year-old stayed on after the initial incident but was eventually substituted for Jack Robinson.
Fulham were toothless, their brightest moment coming in the 6th minute when a decent effort from Tom Cairney was pushed away by Aaron Ramsdale. A weak effort from Loftus-Cheek straight at the Blades keeper was the West London outfits only other attacking spark.
The hosts piled on the pressure throughout the half with Oli McBurnie spurning a number of opportunities to put United in front, the most notable coming on the half-hour mark with a free header at point-blank range which he headed straight into the grateful arms of Fulham keeper, Alphonso Areola. Four minutes later he failed to make contact with a teasing ball across the face of goal, his blushes somewhat spared by the presence of the offside flag.
The flag would go up again just minutes later after the ball had ended up in the Fulham net after Tosin Adarabioyo turned a cross past his own keeper. However, their joy was cut short after the linesman judged Sander Berge to be offside when he played the ball. A quick VAR check showed that he was correct.
Chris Wilder will have been the happier of the two managers at half-time albeit frustrated that his side were unable to capitalise on their opportunities. United fans feared that this profligate finishing would cost them dear after the interval.
These fears looked set to come to life ten minutes after the restart as a needless handball from Robinson left referee Andre Marriner with no choice but to point to the spot. Fulham’s talismanic striker Aleksandr Mitrovic stepped up but smashed his penalty off the crossbar, allowing the Blades a reprieve.
Fulham grew into the game in the second half and while neither side created many chances it was the visitors who looked more comfortable in possession.
This bottom of the table clash appeared to be drifting towards a stalemate when a moment of individual brilliance broke the deadlock thirteen minutes from time. Ademola Lookman, on loan at Fulham from Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig, dribbled past four players before arrowing a powerful shot past Ramsdale and into the far corner.
It was looking like a fifth successive defeat that would leave the Blades rooted to the bottom of the table when Mitrovic caught Robinson with a high boot inside the penalty area to give United a lifeline. With five minutes left on the clock, who else but Mr. Sheffield United could take the penalty? Captain Billy Sharp stepped up and fired past Areola to level things up.
It really wasn’t Mitrovic’s day as having missed one penalty and conceded another he headed wide when presented with a chance to snatch all three points in stoppage time.
Sheffield United are off the mark this season and out of the bottom three with a point but will see this game as a missed opportunity. With a trip to the reigning champions, Liverpool, up next, followed by games against Man City and Chelsea things may get worse before they can get better this season at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Basham (Sharp 81’), Egan, Stevens, Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Lundstram, Lowe (Robinson 19’), McBurnie, McGoldrick (Brewster 64’)
Unused Subs: Burke, Verrips, Ampadu, Osborn
Fulham: Areola, Aina, Adarabioyo, Ream, Robinson, Cairney, Zambo Anguissa, Cavaleiro, Loftus-Cheek (Lemina 81’), Lookman, Mitovitc
Unused Subs: Kebano, Rodák, De Cordova-Reid, Le Marchand, Bryan, Kamara
Sheffield United: None
Fulham: Zambo Anguissa (21’), Cavaleiro (82’)
Sheffield United: Sharp (P) (85’)
Fulham: Lookman (77’)