Aston Villa 2 Fulham 0
Fulham went down to their second successive Premier League defeat, losing 2-0 at Villa Park.
More worryingly, the same malaise that was present against Chelsea was still there as a Europa League game, on a Thursday, seemed to have left us drained and devoid of any real attacking flair with Fulham failing to muster a single shot on target.
After securing their place in the Europa League group stages in midweek, Roy Hodgson was forced to make several changes to the starting eleven that had previously taken to the field against Chelsea in our last Premier League game.
Danny Murphy failed to recover from the injury he sustained in that fixture and Bobby Zamora was also missing. With Andrew Johnson already out injured Roy chose to play Erik Nevland up front alongside Diomansy Kamara. In midfield there was a Fulham debut for Jonathan Greening in a quartet that also saw Dickson Etuhu, Damien Duff and Clint Dempsey selected.
As usual, the back four had the usual familiar look to it.
Aston Villa chose to leave new signing Stephen Warnock on the bench alongside another recent signing, Fabien Delph. Strangely, both battering ram centre forwards, Emile Heskey and John Carew, also were on the bench.
Villa got the action underway and if Fulham had any pretensions about keeping it tight for the first twenty minutes or so they were shot to pieces with only two minutes on the clock.
Some comical defending gave Mark Schwarzer no chance of preventing the ball from going for a corner. From the dead ball kick Cuellar got a neat flick on and the unfortunate John Pantsil had no chance of avoiding the ball and it nestled in the net.
Villa, pushing forward, then saw Steve Sidwell fire inches over from the edge of the box and Fulham looked to be off the pace. Matters changed slightly just before the fifteen minute mark when Fulham finally got to exert a little pressure.
Kamara was fouled some ten yards out of the box but the free kick was poor. Clint Dempsey merely slamming the ball into the wall and Damien Duff saw his shot, from the rebound, blocked. Seconds later Jonathan Greening won a free kick near the corner flag, Duff delivered a great ball in and Dempsey should have done better with his header at the far post.
But, after that brief flirtation in the Villa box, the home side got back on top again. James Milner capitalised on a mistake from Aaron Hughes but the ex-Villa man did well to block the resulting shot and atone for his error.
Fulham won another corner that came to nothing before our second flirtation in the Villa half of any meaning saw a Duff cross turned behind for a corner. The Irishman took the resulting corner and Dempsey once again couldn`t make anything of the half chance that came his way.
As half time approached Dickson Etuhu came to prominence, first for almost doubling the Villa lead with a spectacular downward header that hit the deck and flew over the bar before the player was booked for persistent fouling allied with a show of frustration that Steve Bennett may well have seen s dissent. Unfortunately, he was joined in the referee`s notebook by Greening who was booked for a clumsy, more than malicious, challenge.
Fulham started the second half a little brighter, Nevland hit a pile-driver that caught young Clark flush in the face and when Kamara was fouled twenty-five yards out Dempsey saw his rising free kick climb up and over the bar but that was as good as it got.
In the fifty-ninth minute Gabriel Agbonlahor won possession skipped free and as Hughes dropped off unleashed a shot that beat Schwarzer all ends up. If we were to be contentious we could claim Kamara may have had a penalty after his legs were taken away from behind him by Cuellar but it would have been harsh.
Roy Hodgson tried to inject some freshness into proceedings introducing Eddie Johnson in place of Nevland but the pattern established earlier of running up blind alleys, losing possession too easily and looking lack-lustre just continued.
With two weeks until we entertain Everton let`s hope that Roy can get the boys back on track or else we could be looking at a long and hard season in the bottom half of the table.