Wisla Krakow 1 Fulham 0
Fulham suffered a Europa League setback in Poland, where Moussa Dembele was controversially sent off.
The Whites played for over an hour with 10 men after Dembele was given his marching orders for a reaction to a tangle with Gervasio Nunez that was petulant but probably not worthy of a dismissal.
And Martin Jol’s side were denied a hard-fought draw by a second-half winner from David Briton, whose strike gave Wisla Krakow their first points in Group K.
The Polish champions themselves ended the game a man short after Osman Chavez fouled Andrew Johnson with four minutes remaining and received his second yellow card.
But Fulham were unable to cancel out Briton’s goal, which came when they were slow to close down the Israeli as he received the ball midway inside their half and he took full advantage, moving towards the edge of the penalty area before belting a shot beyond Whites goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
In a sense, however, the game’s decisive moment came in the 29th minute when Dembele angrily pushed the shoulder of Nunez, who went down clutching his face, prompting Swedish referee Martin Hansson to produce the red card.
Dembele was looking dangerous and had Fulham’s best chance of the first half.
It was created by Dickson Etutu, who broke from midfield and exchanged passes with Johnson before laying the ball wide to the Belgian, whose weak left-footed shot was comfortably saved by keeper Sergei Pareiko.
But Wisla were the better team before the break and Invica Iliev went close to scoring for them on three occasions.
His 10th-minute shot deflected off stand-in captain Brede Hangeland and struck the bar, and Schwarzer then dived full stretch to hold onto another effort by the Serbia international.
And after Dembele’s tame attempt at the other end, Iliev created a great chance for himself by skipping inside Stephen Kelly only to fire wastefully wide of the near post from eight yards out.
Dembele’s exit then forced Fulham into a reshuffle, with Johnson dropping off the front.
Manager Jol was already limited in his attacking options, with Bryan Ruiz cup-tied and both Bobby Zamora and Clint Dempsey rested.
And 13 minutes into a second half that was delayed because of a floodlight problem, those attacking options were further reduced when Orlando Sa hobbled off with an apparent hamstring strain.
Johnson was therefore moved back up front, with midfielder Pajtim Kasami coming off the bench.
Yet despite the difficulties they faced, Fulham looked comfortable prior to Briton breaking the deadlock on the hour mark.
Shortly after diving to his right to push away captain Cezary Wilk’s 30-yarder, Schwarzer was unable to stop Briton’s fiercely-struck drive hitting the bottom corner of the net.
With their lead and numerical advantage, Wisla were content to sit back and defend, and Fulham’s under-strength side rarely looked like finding an equaliser.
Fulham’s loss and a 4-1 victory for FC Twente in Odense means the Dutch club are three points clear at the top with three matches to play.
Second in the group, with home games against Wisla and Odense and a trip to Twente to follow, Fulham are still in a strong position.
But it was nevertheless a frustrating night for Jol’s men and Wisla can count themselves fortunate – not least because Chavez might have been sent off earlier for a crude challenge on Kasami.