Aleksandar Mitrovic rescued a point for Fulham at Derby as Wayne Rooney marked his 500th appearance in English league football by scoring a Panenka penalty.
The Championship’s top scorer coolly volleyed in Aboubakar Kamara’s cross for his 22nd goal of the season to lift Fulham within two points of second-placed Leeds in the race for promotion.
It had looked like former England captain Rooney would take the headlines when he calmly clipped the ball past Fulham keeper Marek Rodak from the spot to give the Rams the lead after Tim Ream had been penalised for handball.
But, despite chances at both ends, neither team could find a winner, with Rodak making a number of fine saves to keep his side in the game.
Rodak’s mistakes had been to blame for the Whites’ surprise 3-0 home defeat by Barnsley last weekend but boss Scott Parker kept faith with the Slovakian keeper and was rewarded with a superb display as he saved six of Derby’s seven on-target efforts.
With Rooney behind much of the Rams’ best work, Rodak reacted superbly to keep out a flicked effort from Tom Lawrence and a shot by Matt Clarke on the stretch, before later pushing an angled Lawrence drive around the post.
He was only beaten when Rooney cheekily chipped in his penalty after Ream was adjudged to have used his hand to prevent Martyn Waghorn from going through.
However, after Mitrovic’s opportunistic equaliser, Rodak then prevented Derby from finding a winner with a brilliant diving stop to keep out Max Bird’s drive from 12 yards before diving backwards to palm away a late bundling effort by Curtis Davies from close range.
Fulham had chances to win it too with Bobby Decordova-Reid flashing an effort across the six-yard box, while substitute Ivan Cavaleiro curled a powerful shot narrowly over from 18 yards.
However, their failure to secure all three points hands Leeds the chance to open up a five-point lead over one of their promotion rivals when they entertain Reading on Saturday.
A second successive home 1-1 draw also does little for Derby’s hopes of staging a late run to the play-offs, with the Rams now eight points off a top-six spot having now played a game more than the sides above them.
Rooney’s Panenka penalty
Rooney admitted to Sky Sports after the game that he is “always nervous” before taking penalties but had opted to attempt a Panenka for the first time to “try something different”.
Here’s how his penalty went in in pictures…
Derby boss Phillips Cocu: “Tonight Wayne played in a more forward position as a number 10. He showed great skill, great vision, technical ability and he’s important in all aspects tactically.
“He can adapt if any changes have to be made during the game and that’s always a pleasure for a manager or coach to have somebody who can do that.
“Also what he brings to the club, he helps the young players develop. He talks a lot to individuals, most of the days before training he’s in the coaches’ office to see how we work. He gives his input and his opinion so he knows exactly how we work.
“He can help us during a game in this way as well so for me it’s a pleasure to have a player of his ability and quality but also his personality in the team.”
Fulham head coach Scott Parker: “Wayne’s had a massive impact since he’s been here, it’s no surprise Derby’s upturn in form has coincided with him coming to the club.
“I have no doubt, I don’t know looking in from the outside, but when you bring in a player of Wayne Rooney’s calibre, you’re not just talking about his technique because that’s there for everyone to see.
“But you bring a player into the building that has a mentality of knowing what it is about and driving standards every single day and he’s probably scooping a few up along the way.
“That’s what you get and obviously at times tonight you see his quality as well. He’s had to adapt his game but you often find that the world-class players can do that.”