Fulham 3 Aston Villa 1
Fulham moved nearer to Europa League qualification with a fine 3-1 win over Aston Villa at Craven Cottage this afternoon.
The win made it 11 home wins in the Premier League this season, a fine achievement considering the last-gasp escape from relegation we had last season.
Following the 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge last Saturday Roy Hodgson was able to field Erik Nevland but made something of a surprise in giving Diomansy Kamara his first Premier League start of the season in place of Bobby Zamora.
It was a move thas was to pay dividends.
The game started in an enterprising fashion with Gabriel Agbonlahor getting on to the end of a couple of John Carew headed flicks. But Fulham were to respond in fine fashion.
A sparkling move involving Dickson Etuhu, Danny Murphy and Paul Konchesky saw Nevland`s diving header force Freidel into making a fantastic save.
Unfortunately, for our visitors, the respite was brief as in the sixth minute they were to gift us a golden opportunity of opening the scoring.
Milner was adjudged to have pushed over Diomansy Kamara in the area and Mark Halsey had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. Danny Murphy, making his 600th career appearance, stepped up to despatch the ball into the left hand corner of the net for his 7th goal of the season.
Despite being behind, Villa still looked dangerous going forward and Ashley Young was giving John Pantsil a torrid time. Eight minutes after falling behind Villa were level.
The goal came after build up play involving Petrov, Luke Young and Milner. When the ball was played into the danger zone, Carew deceived Hangleand and Ashley Young, having lost his marker, slipped the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
The first half was proving to be an entertaining open affair and Fulham were to create further chances. Zoltan Gera, from seven yards out, forced another fine save out of Friedel whilst Diomansy Kamara saw a shot, from approximately eighteen yards, deflected just wide of the post by Petrov.
Erik Nevland, continuing the good form that had seen him net two in two, was denied a third in three by a Friedel save before, as half time approached, Villa wasted a glorious chance to take the lead.
Villa broke with great pace after winning possession from a Fulham corner and when Ashley Young and Agbonlahor exchanged passes it was Ashley Young who saw his shot hit the post.
It was a chance Martin O`Neill`s side were to rue for with the first attack of the second half, Fulham, once again, took the lead. A move involving Zoltan Gera and Erik Nevland saw Diomansy Kamara despatch a shot into the bottom corner.
Our visitors tried to respond but Agbonlahor scuffed a shot and the chance has gone. Once again it was to be prove crucial because on the hour mark Fulham increased their lead with a goal scored with great impudence.
Danny Murphy sent over a corner and when Brede Hangeland headed it down it fell invitingly to Diomansy Kamara. With his back to goal he simply back-heeled it into the net. 3-1 and it was game, set and match to Fulham.
Martin O`Neill tried to get Villa back into the game with two substitutions introducing Heskey and Reo-Coker in place of Shorey and Luke Young, but to no avail. Roy Hodgson had marshalled his team superbly with two banks of four denying Villa any space.
Fulham could even afford the luxury of making three substitutions, something of a rarity for Roy, introducing Bobby Zamora for Erik Nevland, Julian Gray for Clint Dempsey and Olivier Dacourt for Dickson Etuhu.
All in all a very satisfying afternoon and now we go to Newcastle with the European dream very much alive.