Fulham secured three valuable points on Saturday with a well-deserved win over Aston Villa. In an open and entertaining game, Fulham produced the majority of the goal scoring chances with Brad Friedel certainly the busier of the two goalkeepers.
Danny Murphy opened the scoring early on for Fulham with a coolly converted penalty before Villa netted the equaliser through Ashley Young. But Diomansy Kamara made sure of the points with a well-taken double shortly after the break.
Aston Villa’s front pairing of John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor certainly kept the Fulham back line on their toes. The first signs of danger appeared early on when a Carew flick-on set up a foot race between Agbonlahor and Aaron Hughes. The Fulham man did well to keep with his opponent and he eventually pressured the striker into firing wide.
Fulham’s first opportunity of the game came in the third minute when a sweeping move down the left wing resulted in Konchesky crossing for Nevland, whose glancing header produced a routine catch from Brad Friedel.
Fulham opened the scoring in the fifth minute after an intricate one-two between Erik Nevland and Clint Dempsey on the edge of the penalty area saw the ball fall into the path of Kamara who was subsequently brought down in the area. Danny Murphy stepped up and put the ball beyond the reach of Friedel.
And there were more nervy moments in the Villa defence moments later when a jinking run from Paul Konchesky set up Nevland with a good opportunity – unfortunately his rising shot flew narrowly over.
Ashley Young restored parity on the 13 minute mark when he ghosted in at the far post to apply a firm finish to James Milner’s low cross. The former Newcastle winger’s low delivery eluded both Agbonlahor and Carew in the area but Young was comparatively unmarked at the back stick.
The equaliser failed to swing the momentum of the game in any particular direction as both sides impressively kept to their respective game-plans – making for an intriguing tactical encounter. Fulham looked at their most dangerous when Clint Dempsey was in possession and the American international was certainly seeing plenty of the ball.
Brad Friedel produced a good save to deny Zoltan Gera from close range as more and more chances started falling Fulham’s way. The Villa keeper was back in action soon after making a camera-friendly save from Clint Dempsey’s long-range effort.
There were angry looks in the Villa defence on 31 minutes when Kamara was able to make space and fire a shot which deflected out for a Fulham corner. Aston Villa’s attacks had largely been reduced to long straight balls played up for Mark Schwarzer to collect with little trouble.
Soon after, a spell of Fulham pressure culminated in Aston Villa breaking away from a Fulham corner through Agbonlahor. The striker skipped past Gera and his low cross found Young at the near post – his flicked effort rebounded back off the upright and away to safety.
An excellent start to the second-half saw Diomansy Kamara hand Fulham the lead once again. The impressive Dempsey was instrumental in the move, drawing a tackle from Luke Young which rolled the ball into the path of Kamara. The striker still had plenty to do but made the finish look easy by drilling a confident low shot past a stretching Friedel from the edge of the area. The Villa keeper pulled off another save soon after, this time to deny Konchesky’s well-hit free kick.
Kamara extended Fulham’s lead shortly before the hour mark with a cheeky finish from close range following a Fulham corner. Brede Hangeland’s goal bound header fell at the feet of Kamara who, with his back to goal, flicked the ball past Friedel, leaving the Villa goalkeeper fuming at his defence.
Martin O’Neill, sensing the urgent need to get his side back into the game, introduced Emile Heskey to the action – giving Villa a triple threat up front.
The change failed to give Villa any additional impetus and the Whites were able to see out the remaining minutes of the match well in control of proceedings. Bobby Zamora replaced Erik Nevland with eight minutes remaining; Julian Gray came on for Dempsey and Olivier Dacourt come on in place of Dickson Etuhu as Fulham ran the clock down.