08.12.13 Fulham v Aston Villa

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A Steve Sidwell strike and a Dimitar Berbatov penalty saw Fulham record their first win in seven league games with a deserved victory over Aston Villa. After Berbatov had seen a header pushed onto the post by Brad Guzan, the Whites went in front in the 21st minute when Ashkan Dejagah played the ball into the path of Sidwell who beat Leandro Bacuna to clip a shot over the Villa keeper. Nathan Baker cleared a Alexander Kačaniklić shot off the line but the Swede was to win the penalty for Fulham’s second when he was tripped in the area by Bacuna. Berbatov slotted the spot-kick home with customary ease. John Arne Riise hit the post in the second half as Fulham secured a crucial win and ended a run of six successive league defeats. It was another impressive display by Fulham under Head Coach Rene Meulensteen. The defence were rarely troubled, while the Whites always looked dangerous on the break. Ahead of the busy Christmas period, it was a much needed shot in the arm for all with Whites connections as Fulham secured their first win since the 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace in October. Meulensteen made one change from the side that lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur last time out, with former Villa man Sidwell replacing Pajtim Kasami. The Swiss midfielder dropped down to the bench where he was joined by Under-21s starlet Lasse Vigen Christensen. After a minute’s silence to mark the death of Nelson Mandela, Fulham got things under way and were attacking the Putney End in the first half. The Whites started brightly and saw early penalty claims turned down in the seventh minute when Berbatov appeared to be nudged in the back by Baker as Kačaniklić whipped in a cross. The ball was cleared behind and the resulting corner from Kačaniklić was met at the far post by Berbatov whose header from six yards was tipped onto the woodwork by Guzan. Villa were always going to be dangerous on the counter and so it proved in the 12th minute when they quickly broke. Gabriel Agbonlahor skipped down the left and crossed for Christian Benteke but the Belgium international sent his header from seven yards wide of Maarten Stekelenburg’s left-hand post when he should really have hit the target. Stekelenburg then beat away a Benteke drive from the edge of the box after Fulham had failed to clear their lines, but the Whites went closer to taking the lead when Giorgos Karagounis sent Dejagah clear. Ciaran Clark got back to make a brilliant challenge as Dejagah shaped to shoot with the ball falling to Kačaniklić whose driven shot was cleared off the line by Baker. In the 18th minute Kačaniklić drew a save from Guzan after Villa had been opened up down the left once again but Fulham were soon in front. Berbatov and Dejagah played a one-two with the winger squeezing the ball through for Sidwell. Guzan came out to block but, from a tight angle, Sidwell, under pressure from Bacuna, clipped a left-footed shot over the keeper and into the far corner of the goal. A wonderful passing move by Fulham saw them given the chance to increase their advantage in the 30th minute from the penalty spot. After a Villa corner was cleared, Karagounis launched the ball forwards to Berbatov whose first-time flick sent Kačaniklić racing clear. The Swede was sent tumbling in the box by Bacuna and, after Mike Dean pointed to the spot, Berbatov nonchalantly stepped up to send Guzan the wrong way. Villa almost got themselves back in it straight away when Benteke’s cute flick to Fabian Delph found the midfielder in space but he dragged his shot across the goal and wide. Berbatov forced Guzan into a good save in the 37th minute when he collected Sidwell’s lay-off after some fine passing on the edge of the box by Fulham in what was the final action of note in the first half. Fulham started the second half on the front foot. A well-worked short-corner routine between Karagounis and Kačaniklić saw the Swede cross for Philippe Senderos whose header was well held by Guzan. Berbatov skewed well wide from Riise’s crossfield ball, before Karagounis showed some fine footwork to ghost past two Villa players but fired over from 30 yards on the hour mark. Five minutes later Riise almost opened his Fulham account when his header from a Karagounis cross came back off the near post after Guzan had completely misjudged the flight of the ball. Chris Herd went into the book in the 67th minute for a late tackle on Karagounis, before Guzan saved Dejagah’s left-footed drive from the edge of the box at the second time of asking. Villa had offered little as an attacking threat but a mighty goalmouth scramble ensued in the 70th minute; Riise and Hughes bravely making blocks as a succession of shots rained in. Kasami replaced the excellent Karagounis in the 72nd minute in Meulensteen’s first change of the afternoon and the Swiss nearly made an instant impact when his low cross was almost turned into his own net by Clark with Herd clearing from near the line. Kačaniklić made way for Damien Duff in the 77th minute, before a long-range effort from Riise flashed just wide of Guzan’s near post. Aaron Hughes got away with what looked like a foul on Agbonlahor in the box with seven minutes remaining and Stekelenburg made sure of a first clean sheet since the win over Stoke City when he tipped Benteke’s drive over the bar in injury time.

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Pubblicato il 12 dicembre 2013, in Football con tag , , , , , , , , , , . Aggiungi il permalink ai segnalibri. Lascia un commento.

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