MILLWALL’S run in this season’s EFL Cup is over after they were knocked out by Fulham – who gave a debut to 15-year-old Harvey Elliott.
The Premier League side took just six minutes to go in front when Joe Bryan fired home from inside the box, before Ben Amos saved twice from Luca de la Torre in the first half.
After Cyrus Christie shot just wide, de la Torre made it two seven minutes after the break.
Millwall got back into it in the 61st minute through Tom Elliott’s first goal of the season, but it was the briefest of hope as Christie made it 3-1 seven minutes later.
First half – Millwall struggle to lay a glove on their opponents
Lions boss Neil Harris made eight changes to his side, with Lewis White on the first-team bench on match-day for the first time.
Fulham made 10 changes from their 1-1 draw against Watford in the Premier League at the weekend but it had little impact on their fluency, with 20-year-old de la Torre at the heart of most things, playing off the front two in a 3-4-1-2 formation.
Bryan reached the last four of this competition with Bristol City last season when he showed his attacking flair, and from a left wing-back position he didn’t need much coaxing to get forward. Nor would a player of de la Torre’s quality be unlikely to spot him, and after the midfielder deftly lifted the ball into the box, Bryan struck a low shot past Amos into the far corner.
Even in a second-string side the Cottagers possessed so many players with a good first touch, and their threats came from a multitude of angles.
They moved the ball over and back across the pitch, but incisively as well with Bryan and the other wing-back, Christie, pushing high up the pitch.
In the 17th minute Millwall had a rare chance when Lee Gregory ran onto Shane Ferguson’s pass into the inside-left channel. The striker tried to shoot across goalkeeper Sergio Rico, but it was a relatively straightforward save.
Fulham went close to a second when Floyd Ayite pulled down a cross to set up de la Torre, but Amos blocked with his legs.
Kevin McDonald brushed Amos' left-hand post with an effort from 25 yards, and then Bryan and Aboubakar Kamara combined to set up de la Torre, Amos again making the save.
Second half – Millwall switch to 3-5-2
To counteract the threat of Bryan, Harris brought on Mahlon Romeo for Jiri Skalak at half-time and Conor McLaughlin moved into a back three.
But no sooner was that left-sided fire temporarily quelled than Christie raced forward on the other side onto Kamara’s cross-field pass to shoot just wide of the far post.
The warning was there again, but in the 52nd minute Ayite got in behind the home defence on the left to cross low for de la Torrre who composed himself to finish.
With Millwall unable to really get at Fulham’s goal from open play, set-pieces always seemed their best way back into the game. And they gave themselves hope with just under half an hour left, Elliott heading in Ferguson’s corner from the left.
For a few moments the atmosphere in the ground changed, and Romeo wasn’t far away from reaching a loose ball in the box. But Fulham shortly went two goals ahead again when Christie shot from the right outside the box into the far corner.
In the 82nd minute, Fulham plucked another player off their rich production line when Elliott – born on April 3, 2003 – came on for his first-team debut.
There was a clear gulf between the sides from early on and though Elliott’s goal briefly raised hopes of an unlikely comeback, Christie’s long-range strike restored order.
Perhaps a positive is that Millwall re-familiarised themselves with the 3-5-2 formation that they have switched to twice in the last two seasons in games against Sheffield United, Saturday’s league opponents at The Den.
Romeo scored in the 3-1 win against the Blades here last season, and this system seems to suit him.
Elliott’s goal, his first since April, was deserved for the effort he put in, and after he had struck the woodwork three times already this season.
The Lions ended a six-game winless league run against Sheffield United last December, and how they could do with a similar outcome next weekend.
Image: Millwall FC