Aston Villa eased to a thirteenth consecutive home league win over Fulham – with their club-record equalling 3-1 win leaving Marco Silva’s side just two places above the relegation zone. The Whites had it all to do after conceding two goals in a first half where they were slow to get going and, although they were much improved after the interval, the concession of a sloppy third goal whilst they looked to be in ascendancy encapsulated a poor performance. The only ray of light on a dismal day for Marco Silva was Raul jimenez ending his barren run in front of goal: but Fulham will have to be far better than this against the Mexican’s former employers, Wolves, after the international break.
Fulham have now gone six league games without a win at Craven Cottage in the same season for the first time in six years. They were left manning the barricades from the outset in B6 having failed to match the intensity of Unai Emery’s outfit from the first whistle. Bernd Leno was forced into an early save when Moussa Diaby propelled a cross from Lucas Digne goalwards and Villa were denied a penalty on the instructions of the video assistant referee, who instructed Simon Hooper to take another look after he penalised Timothy Castagne for handball, when Ollie Watkins’ cross had hit the Belgian full in the face.
Fulham threatened sporadically on the counter with Jimenez only prevented from reaching Bobby De Cordova-Reid’s cross by a timely intervention from the sliding Erzi Konsa, but the home side were in the ascendancy. Silva will feel that their opening goal was more than preventable. Alex Iwobi, preferred to Harrison Reed in central midfield, failed to track the run of Youri Tielemans, which drew Calvin Bassey out from the centre. Leno looked favourite to gather the low ball in, having come out to collect it, only for Antonee Robinson – perhaps panicked by the presence of Watkins and Diaby in the area – to bundle home his second own goal of the season.
Leno did kept out a shot from Matty Cash after the Polish international had motored forward from full back before the former Nottingham Forest defender produced the perfect sliding challenge to prevent Willian from racing through on goal. Villa kept possession and when Robinson failed headed a high ball from Digne only as far as John McGinn, the Scottish midfielder darted beyond Palhinha before finding the far corner from twenty yards with a lovely left-footed finish.
Fulham fashioned chances for Jimenez and Willian in stoppage time, but the need for extra invention was indicated by Silva’s swapping of De Cordova-Reid for Harry Wilson at the start of the second half. The Cottagers responded with Iwobi driving through the Villa midfield and finding Jimenez, whose low shot was somehow palmed onto the post by Emi Martinez, before Willian blazed the follow-up over the bar. Jimenez then set up Iwobi, who should have done better than scuff a shot wide, before a crisp counter saw Jimenez and Pereira spread the play for Wilson. The Welshman’s cross found Willian at the far post, but the Brazilian veteran couldn’t find the target.
With the Whites on top, they contrived to shoot themselves in the foot – or more accurately fall flat on their face. There was no apparent danger after Villa had a cleared a corner until Robinson stumbled, allowing Leon Bailey to sprint clear and, after working a one-two with McGinn, cross for Watkins to score his eleventh goal of the season. Fulham could have caved in there and then but then continued to play and earned some consolation when Jimenez found the net following a 33-game Premier League drought.
The Mexican international’s first league goal in 20 months was a simple finish after Wilson lofted a lovely ball over the Villa defence for Robinson to pick out the centre forward. Silva’s side went in search of a second that would have set up a grandstand finale. Iwobi drilled a drive straight at Martinez before substitute Carlos Vinicius saw a goal disallowed for offside. Villa had dipped below Emery’s high standards but threatened a fourth at the death. Watkins hid his head in his shirt after heading wide from four yards out after McGinn’s cross had been turned against the bar by a desperate Palhinha – but the home side’s electric start rendered that miss merely academic.
ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Martinez; Cash, Digne, Konsa, Torres; McGinn, Kamara, Douglas Luiz, Tielemans; Diaby (Bailey 62), Watkins. Subs (bot used): Olsen, Chambers, Moreno, Lenglet, Dendoncker, Zaniolo, B. Traore, Duran.
BOOKED: Watkins, Konsa.
GOALS: A. Robinson (o.g. 27), McGinn (42), Watkins (64).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Leno; Castagne, A. Robinson, Bassey, Ream; Palhinha, Iwobi (Reed 82); De Cordova-Reid (Wilson 45), Willian (A. Traore 82), Pereira; Jimenez (Vinicius 74). Subs (not used): Rodak, Tete, Ballo-Toure, Lukic, Cairney.
BOOKED: Palhinha, A. Robinson, Iwobi, Vinicius, Reed.
GOAL: Jimenez (70).
REFEREE: Simon Hooper