Aston Villa 3 Fulham 1 - Report
Watching Aston Villa on home soil continues to be one of the hottest tickets in town just at the moment.
Victory over Fulham equalled a post-war record of 13 straight league wins at Villa Park, a sequence not seen since 1983 when the squad included Gary Shaw, now a regular at work in the press box. One more will equal the overall club record of 14, set in 1931. And next up in the league on home turf? Manchester City and Arsenal in four testing, challenging but ultimately exciting days in December. Two to look forward to.
For now though, it’s time to bask in the glory of a sensational run, whilst perhaps – certainly in Unai Emery’s case – wondering how to transfer anything like a similar sort of momentum to life on the road.
Villa’s home record is the best in the Premier League on goal difference – only Liverpool and Manchester City are still with them with a hundred per cent points haul. They have also scored three or more in each of their first six Premier League matches this season, joining an exclusive club featuring only City, who achieved it last year.
The away record however, 13th in the table, considerably less impressive.
Twenty-three goals scored and just five conceded in picking up 18 points from the six fixtures at home. Only six scored and 12 conceded in gleaning seven points on their travels. That’s one for another day.
Fortresses can take a long time in being built, developed and strengthen. Once constructed, they can often take some shifting. And that is the case with Villa at this moment in time.
Even if they are not constantly at full throttle, there is a confidence that they can get the job done. Momentum is with them.
Villa were on the front foot from early on Remembrance Sunday afternoon, Moussa Diaby forcing a fine save from Bernd Leno after good work down the left from Lucas Digne and Youri Tielemans.
Almost immediately afterwards referee Simon Hooper awarded a penalty for handball against Timothy Castagne which he then overturned when asked to take another look by VAR as it appeared the ball had struck the Fulham defender’s face.
And while Villa continued to dominate possession, it needed a timely Ezri Konsa interception to deny Fulham an opener at the other end to prevent Castagne’s low cross finding its way to Raul Jimenez.
With 27 minutes on the clock, that dominance in possession finally told, as Villa struck first.
Tielemans, on his first Premier League start since his summer arrival, had been making some excellent breaks down the left, and delivered a low cross which Diaby couldn’t quite connect with but supplied sufficient pressure that the ball deflected off Antonee Robinson into the Fulham net.
Villa were controlling the game and Matty Cash cut inside to draw another save out of Leno before John McGinn extended the lead just before half time.
The skipper picked up the ball outside the box and, after a neat sidestep, fired clinically into the bottom corner.
Fulham had threatened sporadically on the break in the first half without overly troubling Emiliano Martinez but went closer than that at the start of the second, a lick of paint denying Raul Jimenez as his low drive bounced back off the post.
It proved the signal for a decent spell for the visitors with Villa struggling to regain their first half control, Willian firing just wide shortly before the hour mark.
But in the 64th minute, a devastating Villa break turned defence into attack from a Fulham corner, as Ollie Watkins, who actually headed the flag kick away, made it three.
Substitute Leon Bailey made great strides and interlinked with McGinn before sending over the cross which Watkins despatched at close range.
Any hopes of complete relaxation for the last 20 minutes were dashed however as Fulham responded shortly afterwards, Jimenez tapping home his first for the club after Robinson broke forward and crossed from the left.
There were one or two moments of concern, especially as Fulham broke Villa’s high line, but for the most part the defence stayed intact with Carlos Vinicius’s joy ruled out as the flag went up after he thought he had scored.
At the other end, Villa were still threatening further damage to the scoreline, and Watkins will wonder how he didn’t manage a second after heading wide as the ball came back to him after bouncing off the crossbar.
The points were secured however as Villa moved to fifth in the table and in striking distance of those above. After six games in three weeks Villa will return after the international break to be met by a schedule of 10 in 35 days.
Included in that are those assignments with City and Arsenal, and firstly Tottenham, three of the next four in the Premier League to whet the appetite and offer an indication of how far Villa have come.
Challenges to be relished, certainly on this evidence and certainly at Villa Park in particular, where a healthy dose of home comforts have laid some seriously strong foundations over the first third of the season.
Villa (4-4-2): Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne; McGinn, Kamara, Luiz, Tielemans; Diaby (Bailey 62), Watkins. Subs not used: Olsen (gk), Traore, Moreno, Chambers, Lenglet, Zaniolo, Duran, Dendoncker.
Fulham (4-2-3-1): Leno; Castagne, Bassey, Ream Robinson; Iwobi (Reed 82), Palhinha; De Cordova-Reid (Wilson 45), Pereira (Cairney 74), Willian (Adama 82); Jimenez (Vinicius 74). Subs not used: Rodak (gk), Tete, Ballo-Toure, Lukic.