Fulham picked up three enormous points, their first win under new first team coach Rene Meulensteen, as they dominate a well-traveled Aston Villa 2-0 from Craven Cottage.
Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov both grabbed first-half goals, with the latter having a hand in both scores and handing in an impressive performance on the heels of a few lazy showings.
The home side started on the front foot, and bashed both of Villa’s flanks in the first ten minutes, but they couldn’t find a good cross into the box.
Brad Guzan in that time was forced into a fantastic save when Dimitar Berbatov put his head to a corner, but the 29-year-old keeper athletically kept the Bulgarian out.
Villa had clearly decided to play on the counter, like they had so many times before successfully on the road. Christian Benteke found himself a chance in the 13th minute but couldn’t put his header accurately onto a cross from Gabriel Agbonlahor.
Benteke then three minutes later again found space in the box but Maarten Stekelenburg saved well down low to his left.
Things started to get hectic for the Villa defense just before 20 minutes as Ashkan Dejagah received a long ball in the box and was free on net but Cieran Clark made a last-ditch tackle among penalty shouts for Fulham, and Kacaniklic’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Nathan Baker.
The disorganization of the visitors at the back finally hurt them in the 21st minute. Giorgis Karagounis won the ball in Villa’s third, and a great touch by Berbatov found Dejagah then Steve Sidwell who cut home from a very tight angle.
It got better for the home side eight minutes later as a beautiful touch by Berbatov on the counter sprung Kacaniklic all alone. Leandro Bacuna caught up as Kacaniklic settled and broke, but the Swede stuck his body between ball and defender, and Bacuna brought him down. What looked to be a soft penalty was shown to be the correct decision on replay.
Berbatov then took the penalty and, in his usual cool self, calmly finished past Guzan for a 2-0 lead.
The second half was more of the same, with Guzan needing to sprawl to his left to save a Philippe Senderos header within the first five minutes after the break.
Fulham didn’t find as many chances as in the first half, but they controlled possession and midfield, and Aston Villa wasted chance after chance with poor set pieces and sloppy passing on the counter.
John Arne Riise on 65 minutes just missed wide with a header after Dejagah found him with a long cross, and the Iranian himself had a shot saved by Guzan minutes later with space and the goal gaping.
It was all Fulham from that point on, with Riise failing to get past Guzan on two other occasions, and chances also falling for Berbatov and Dejagah.
The only real chance for Aston Villa came as Abgonlahor was possibly fouled in the edge of the box by Aaron Hughes on 84 mintues. There was slight contact on Agbonlahor’s foot, but the striker didn’t help himself by going down theatrically. Mike Dean waved it off.
The win for Fulham is massive, as they move above Crystal Palace into 17th and look bright for the second straight match. Villa also halts a streak, one of five straight unbeaten marked by just their second away loss of the season.
Christian Benteke remains goalless for nine straight matches now.
Fulham – Sidwell 21′, Berbatov (pen) 30′
Fulham – Stekelenburg; Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise; Parker, Karagounis (Kasami, 75′), Sidwell; Kacaniklic (Duff, 76′), Dejagah; Berbatov.
Aston Villa – Guzan; Bacuna, Clark, Baker, Herd (Lowton, 81′); El Ahmadi (Tonev, 45′), Westwood Delph; Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann (Albrighton, 81′).