Express & Star

Fulham 1 Aston Villa 2 - Report

Villa jumped back into the Premier League top four after holding on to beat Fulham.

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Two goals from Ollie Watkins appeared to have Unai Emery’s team cruising to victory at Craven Cottage.

But a mistake by their reworked defence allowed Rodrigo Muniz to score and set up a nervy finish.

Emi Martinez denied Adama Traore a stoppage time equaliser to preserve a win which sent Villa back above Tottenham after the latter were beaten 2-1 by Wolves.

Aston Villa's Alex Moreno and Fulham's Timothy Castagne


Villa’s keeper celebrated the save with the hosts still on the attack and it was an undoubted act of redemption after an earlier miscommunication with Clement Lenglet had allowed Muniz to breathe new life into the match.

Watkins’ double had appeared to have already settled it prior to the hour mark. The England international now has 13 Premier League goals for the season and 18 in all competitions, a new personal best tally for Villa with plenty of matches still to play.

He was inches away from his second hat-trick of the season after sending a shot wide, on a day when he and Villa’s other big players stood up to give fresh momentum to the season following two straight defeats.

Pau Torres, making his first start for two months, was excellent in defence while Youri Tielemans, who replaced Boubacar Kamara in the line-up, set up the second and winning goal.

Aston Villa's Ollie Watkins celebrates with team-mates

After a week which had been dominated by talk of injuries after last Sunday's frustrating defeat to Manchester United, with Kamara ruled out for the season and Diego Carlos lost for the next month, this was a reminder Villa are a long way from finished in the race for Champions League football.

Watkins actually had the ball in the net inside the opening two minutes but didn’t bother celebrating, knowing he had strayed a good couple of yards offside before Leon Bailey released the final pass.

From that point until the opener, it was Fulham who did most of the attacking. Muniz twice shot off target while the hosts had a disallowed goal of their own when Tim Ream tapped home from a free-kick.

Villa looked a little short of ideas and it needed a mistake from Antonee Robinson and the alertness of Ramsey to get them going.

When the former sent his throw-in off target, the latter nipped in and got the ball to Watkins at the second attempt. Villa’s top scorer stayed cool under pressure from Ream to turn and fire just inside the far post.

The visitors were suddenly alive and twice came close to a second, Bailey first curling a shot off the bar after a driving Ramsey run.

Aston Villa's Leon Bailey and Fulham's Tim Ream

Moreno then headed in at the far post after Watkins had flicked on a corner, the celebrations again cut short by a raised flag before a lengthy VAR check confirmed the original decision to be correct by millimetres.

Fulham came close to an equaliser when Muniz headed just wide at a corner, Martinez scrambling across his goal.

But Villa really should have gone in two goals up at the break, Tielemans shooting too close to Bernd Leno after Watkins had pounced on a loose pass in midfield and hared toward goal before playing his team-mate in.

Ten minutes after the restart the roles were reversed and there was no mistake with the finish. Tielemans’ picked out the pass perfectly after Villa had built from the back and Watkins, with time to compose himself, thumped a low finish beyond Leno.

For a few minutes after the goal the rest of the afternoon looked like being a cruise for Villa.

But hesitation between Lenglet and Martinez allowed Muniz to nip in and turn home Antonee Robinson’s cross.

Referee Lewis Smith waits for a VAR check on a goal

The hosts had hope, though it was almost snatched away immediately when Diop just about beat Watkins to a through ball. Villa’s striker then sent a low strike just wide of the post.

For the visitors, things were suddenly much tougher, the home side’s set pieces a source of trouble. A training ground free-kick routine ended with substitute Harry Wilson side footing a volley wide of the far post.

Martinez was called into his first serious work of the match when he denied Alex Iwobi with his legs, before Wilson drilled an effort wide of goal.

The last chance fell to Traore but he sent the finish too close to Martinez, the keeper’s celebration the lasting image of a good afternoon for Villa.

Key Moments

23 GOAL Villa take the lead. Jacob Ramsey pounces on a poor Fulham throw to tee up Ollie Watkins for his 12th Premier League goal of the season.

56 GOAL Villa double their lead. Youri Tielemans picks out the run of Watkins and he thumps a low finish beyond Bernd Leno.

63 GOAL Fulham back in it. Hesitation between Clement Lenglet and Emi Martinez allows Rodrigo Muniz to pounce and turn home Antonee Robinson’s cross.


Fulham (4-2-3-1): Leno, Castagne, Diop, Ream (Bassey 75), Robinson, Palhinha (Lukic 89), Cairney, Cordova-Reid (Wilson 64), Pereira (Traore 75), Willian (Iwobi HT), Muniz Subs not used: Tosin, Reed, Ballo-Toure, Rodak (gk).

Villa (4-4-2): Martinez, Cash, Lenglet, Torres, Moreno (Digne 81), Bailey (Diaby 81), McGinn, Luiz, Ramsey, Tielemans (Iroegbunam 90+3), Watkins Subs not used: Chambers, Zaniolo, Rogers, Kesler-Hayden, Olsen (gk), Gauci (gk).