Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Sunday January 31 2010
Two goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor, close to half time, ensured it was five Premier League games without a win for Fulham.
After the defeat at White Hart Lane, Roy Hodgson chose to make three changes to his starting eleven bringing in Simon Davies, Stephen Kelly and Erik Nevland. However, the list of those missing - Pantsil, Konchesky, Dempsey and Johnson implied that Fulham would find it hard to get three points from this encounter.
In the home defence was Chris Smalling, signed by Manchester United but loaned back to Fulham for the remainder of the season.
Villa, recent Carling Cup Final qualifiers, got off to a decent start and perhaps Emile Heskey should have done better with his header after some good work from James Milner.
Fulham responded with a volley from Simon Davies that Brad Freidel did well to save before Villa carved out a further two chances. The first saw Heskey unable to take advantage of a Stephen Kelly error and the second saw Ashley Young, one on one with Mark Schwarzer, fail to maximise the opportunity.
With twenty-three minutes completed Simon Davies, making a rare start, limped off injured to be replaced by Zoltan Gera. The substitute then saw a shot blocked and Erik Nevland tried to direct his header back across goal but without finding a Fulham shirt.
Ashley Young then carved out a chance for Luke Young but Schwarzer pulled off a good save before Brad Freidel almost diverted a shot from Bobby Zamora that was going wide into his net. The American keeper then proceeded to deny Zamora with a good save before Fulham were shocked by a Villa goal.
With forty minutes on the clock a cross from Stilyian Petrov caught Chris Smalling on the wrong side and Gabriel Agbonlahor was able to head home. With it being a time to consolidate Fulham conceded a second on the stroke of half time.
This time it was Brede Hangeland who was caught on the wrong side and Agbonlahor made no mistake scoring at the far post.
Fulham had it all to do in the second half but Martin O`Neill`s Aston Villa side are no defensive mugs. With Richard Dunne and James Collins in imperious form at the heart of the defence Fulham chances were few and far between.
Hodgson, sensing the game was slipping away, introduced David Elm for Erik Nevland and Bjorn Helge Riise for Stephen Kelly. Elm produced some promising touches having a goal chalked off for offside and then seeing Dunne block an effort but those two goals just before half time were to prove to be decisive.
Time to rally the troops Roy otherwise it could be a nervous last few months of the season.
Date:Sunday January 31 2010
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