Dec 8, 2013 at 1.30pm UK at ​Craven Cottage
Aston Villa
Sidwell (22'), Berbatov (30' pen.)
FT(HT: 2-0)

Delph (19'), Herd (67')

Live Commentary: Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa - as it happened

Find out how Fulham were able to overcome Aston Villa at Craven Cottage courtesy of Sports Mole's text updates.

Fulham played host to Aston Villa today looking to end a run of six straight Premier League defeats.

They got off to a good start when Steve Sidwell chipped them in front, before Dimitar Berbatov doubled their advantage from the penalty spot.

Rene Meulensteen's team continued to create chances after the restart, but they had to settle for a 2-0 victory come the final whistle.

You can find out how the match unfolded with our text updates below.

12.32pmAfternoon all. So, while a lot of the talk yesterday was about the top of the league (minus Arsenal), this fixture is all about survival. Fulham, who host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage, are in desperate need of all three points today.

12.35pmBefore we go any further, though, the team news is about to be released. Let's start with the struggling hosts...

12.36pmFULHAM XI: Stekelenburg; Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise; Parker, Karagounis, Sidwell; Dejagah, Kacaniklic; Berbatov

12.38pmFULHAM SUBS: Stockdale, Zverotic, Richardson, Kasami, Duff, Ruiz, Christensen

12.41pmNewly-appointed Rene Meulensteen makes one change from the defeat to Spurs last time out, with Steve Sidwell coming into a five-man midfield at the expense of Pajtim Kasami. Elsewhere, despite speculation over his future, Dimitar Berbatov will feature as a lone striker, while young Swede Alexander Kacaniklic starts as a winger.

12.43pmAnd now for visiting Villa...

12.44pmASTON VILLA XI: Guzan; Herd, Baker, Clark, Bacuna; El Ahmadi, Delph, Westwood, Agbonlahor, Weimann; Benteke

12.45pmASTON VILLA SUBS: Steer, Lowton, Helenius, Albrighton, Bowery, Sylla, Tonev

12.47pmThe big news for Villa is that last season's leasing goalscorer Christian Benteke has been reinstated into the starting lineup. There is also a first appearance of the campaign for midfielder Chris Herd. At the back Ron Vlaar and Antonio Luna are ruled out with injuries, with Gabriel Agbonlahor taking over the captaincy duties.

12.51pmIt cannot be stressed enough how important this game is for Fulham. They've lost six on the bounce and after today they face Everton and Manchester City. With the Whites not expected to get too much from those clashes, three points today is vital. To be fair, although they were defeated, there were signs of the impact that Meulensteen may have against Spurs.

12.53pmThe Dutchman recently spent some time with Manchester United and speaking ahead of this clash, he revealed his plans to use all that he learned from Sir Alex Ferguson.

"I've been fortunate to sit alongside one of the most successful managers in Sir Alex Ferguson. He taught me a lot but the one thing that stood by me, in life, in football - you're faced constantly by challenges. You want challenges, and sometimes they are in adversity," he told reporters.

"The most important thing is to accept the challenge, embrace the challenge, and enjoy taking that challenge on and that is what we're prepared to do. I will definitely draw into the experiences that I've had of Sir Alex Ferguson."

12.57pmMeulensteen also sees similarities in today's opponents to the situation that he has inherited at Craven Cottage: "Villa is a good team. Paul Lambert was in a similar situation last year, he chose to really put out an energetic young team, he's gone through that and we have to deal with that."

1.02pmVilla will be confident today, largely due to their away form. 12 of their 19 points have come on their travels and it is something that has delighted their manager Paul Lambert:

It’s great for us, because you give another team a seed of doubt. I think if they’re doing their job they’re thinking Aston Villa can hurt us and you know that can happen. Why it is, I’m not sure. If I could take the away form into the home form we’d be sitting quite healthy at the minute. Sometimes things like that just happen," he told reporters.

1.06pmINJURY! Things really aren't going Fulham's way at the moment, are they?! Winger Kacaniklic has just gone down during the warm-up following a challenge with his teammate Sidwell. He's holding his right foot, which has captured the attention of the medical team. Whether he will able to start the match, only time will tell. He looks to be in a lot of pain.

1.11pmIt's probably best to break this to you now - those that are expecting a match full of goals are likely to be disappointed. In the last four games between these two sides, the net has been breached on just four occasions. It's fair to say that these are often nervy affairs.

1.15pmTalking of a lack of goals, Villa frontman Benteke has struggled to find the net this season. After a sensational first campaign, the 23-year-old has not scored since September. Lambert, though, is hopeful that he is over his problems:

"He's looking his old self. Players have dips so hopefully the Southampton game has done him the world of good," the Villa boss just told Sky Sports News.

1.20pmPREDICTION: Right, with around 10 minutes to go until we get off and running in West London, let's have a stab at predicting the outcome of this one. As it has just been mentioned, goals have been few and far between in this fixture of late. Villa have some serious pace in their side and with the way that Fulham have defended this term, you'd expect them to create chances. Up the other end, could this be the time that Berbatov finally comes good? Let's sit on the fence and say 1-1.

1.25pmThe players have filtered out of the old dressing rooms at Craven Cottage and are now being taken onto the pitch by referee Mike Dean. There's a good atmosphere being provided by both sets of supporters.

1 minGAME ON! Here we go then. Fulham, attacking from left to right, get what is an important match for them started.

4 minIncidentally, Kacaniklic did shake off that foot injury that he picked up during the warm-up to begin this match. He's started on the left flank for Fulham. Aside from that, there has been very little to report from the opening exchanges.

8 minThe visiting supporters have been in fine voice so far, whereas there has barely been a peep from the home faithful. They are probably waiting for their side to give them something to shout about, but right now, that's not happening. In a situation such as Fulham's, support from the stands can be invaluable.

9 minSAVE! Moments after he is refused a penalty, Berbatov goes ever so close to breaking the deadlock. He meets a deep corner from Kacaniklic at the back post and it appears that his header is flying into the top corner. Brad Guzan scampers across his line, though, to tip the ball onto the crossbar with his fingertips. You won't see many better saves than that this season, that's for sure.

13 minCHANCE! First sight of goal for Villa and the Benteke of last season may have buried it. Agbonlahor picks him out with a cross from the left, but the Belgian striker can only glance his header from 10 yards out wide of the target.

17 minSAVE! This time Benteke does find the target with a low drive from 10 yards out, but Maarten Stekelenburg is down early and parries clear the shot. The Villa striker did well to make himself enough space, but again, he probably should have done better with that.

18 minOFF THE LINE! Fulham will be wondering how an earth they are not in front here. First Ciaran Clark retreats to deny Ashkan Dejagah in the action of shooting. The rebound falls to Kacaniklic and the Swede drills the ball underneath Guzan. However, Nathan Baker had the presence of mind to drop back to hack clear off the line. Big escape for Villa, who have just had Fabian Delph booked.


21 minWhat a very composed finish from Sidwell, who has returned to haunt his former club Villa. Berbatov nods the ball down for Dejagah, but his pass looks as though it was overhit. Sidwell refuses to give up his pursuit, though, and he slides in before Bacuna to lift the ball over an advancing Guzan and into the net from a narrowing angle. Fulham lead in a game that they really must win.

26 minWe've just had a slight stoppage in play because Fulham's experienced midfielder Giorgos Karagounis is down following a challenge with Herd. To be fair to the Greek, he took a big blow to his face and doesn't actually look completely with it!

28 minTalking to BBC Radio London, here is how former Fulham defender Rufus Brevett has seen the opening 28 minutes:

"Fulham deserve that lead and it was a fantastic finish from Steve Sidwell. They are asking all the questions, getting the ball in the box and closing down all over the place. It's been a fantastic start but Aston Villa do look dangerous on the break and Fulham do need to stay tight at the back."



30 minTalk about being casual. Berbatov runs up to the spot, pulls back his leg, waits for Guzan to dive to his left and then slots the ball into the opposite corner to put Fulham 2-0 up. The Bulgarian also played a big role in the build-up to the penalty because it was his lofted pass that released Kacaniklic. The winger moved into area, only to be upended by Bacuna, who despite calls from the Fulham fans, remains on the pitch. Nevertheless, the home side have a cushion.

33 minCHANCE! It's been a positive response from Villa as Benteke and Delph link to free the latter. The angle is against him, but he goes for goal anyway. The strike was powerful enough to worry Stekelenburg, so he would have been thankful to see the ball fizz wide of the target.

35 minGary Lineker on Twitter: "If only Berbatov could relax a little he'd be one hell of a player."

38 minSAVE! Berbatov is controlling this game now. He plays the ball into Sidwell's feet and carries on his run towards his teammate. He then regains possession, but having beaten two of the Villa defence with a change of pace, his poked effort is turned away for a corner by Guzan. If Jol is watching this, he must be wondering why he couldn't have played like this all season!

43 minWhile Berbatov is having a stormer, the same cannot be said for Dejagah. On several occasions he's been given so much space down the right flank, but the Fulham attacker's crossing has let him down. He just summed up his display with a badly underhit pass that allowed Villa to regain possession.

45 minThere will be two minutes of stoppage time at the end of this first half.


2.20pmReferee Dean calls an end to the first half with Fulham in the ascendancy, thanks largely to the influence of the maverick that is Berbatov.

2.24pmThe Fulham dressing is bound to be a buoyant place right now, but it will be important that Meulensteen keeps his Fulham players grounded. Nothing has been won yet and you'd expect Villa to come out and have a real go during the second half.

2.27pmAs for Villa, Lambert is likely to be disappointed with what he has seen from his team, and not just because they've conceded a couple of goals. They've worked out a few openings but the finishing, particularly from Benteke, has been below-par.

2.30pmWorryingly for the visitors, having had a quick scan of their substitute options, there is not too much on the bench that you would expect to come on and change the game in their favour. Lambert is probably going to be better off sticking with what he started with and hoping that their composure in front of goal improves.

2.33pmWhat's more, they could also be forgiven for feeling a little sorry for themselves. Replays of the penalty have shown that Kacaniklic ran into Bacuna, who couldn't really do anything about it.

46 minSECOND HALF UNDERWAY! The away side get the second 45 minutes started and they've also made a change. On comes winger Aleksandar Tonev for Karim El Ahmadi, who was largely quiet during the first period.

50 minIt's been a lively start to proceedings, with both sides sending dangerous crosses into the areas. To be fair to the two defences, there has been some create clearances being made. Fulham have also shown that they are keen to claim a third goal to put the match beyond doubt.

53 minSAVE! That's one for the cameras from Guzan, who theatrically throws himself to his left to keep out a powerful header from Senderos. Fulham deserve some real credit here because some teams at 2-0 up would have shut up shop and defended what they have.

58 minVilla have obviously identified the full-back areas as Fulham's weak points. On almost every occasion that they gain possession now, they look to get the ball wide and drive towards the byline. The latest to try his luck is Bacuna, but his cross from the right is turned behind by a retreating Senderos.

63 minFormer Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann on Twitter: "Fulham fields oldest PL team on average so far this season. Plenty of life in the old dogs yet judging by the scoreline. Karagounis very good."

66 minOFF THE POST! Almost game, set and the match for Fulham. Giorgos Karagounis sends over a cross from the left which a stretching Guzan gets nowhere near. With the Villa goalkeeper stranded, John Arne Riise, who has never scored for Fulham, heads the ball against the upright. Will that miss come back to haunt the Londoners?

68 minBOOKING! Second caution of the afternoon for Villa and it goes to Herd. In truth, some referees may have dished out the red card for his late lunge that sent Karagounis flying off the pitch.

70 minSAVE! Guzan really is riding his luck in this second half. Dejagah scuffs his effort from the edge of the area which should have resulted in a routine save for the American keeper. He spills the ball, though, but just as Berbatov is about pounce, he reacts in time to snuff out the danger.

73 minSUBSTITUTION: The first change of the afternoon for Fulham and it's the combative Karagounis that is given a breather. On in his place is Swiss youngster Kasami, who should provide plenty of running in the home side's midfield.

75 minJust before that change, Villa strike pair Agbonlahor and Benteke both verbally laid into their teammate Bacuna. They've been unhappy on numerous times with his lofted passes up to them. It's understandable to a point because he's often opted to lift the ball in Agbonlahor's direction, despite the obvious physical presence that Benteke provides.

79 minSUBSTITUTION: A lively afternoon's work from winger Kacaniklic is over as Fulham boss Meulensteen turns to the experience of Damien Duff to see out the closing stages. Moments later, Riise drills a shot from 25 yards out a couple of feet wide of the target.

83 minSUBSTITUTIONS: A double alteration from Lambert as Marc Albrighton and Matthew Lowton take the places of Weimann and Herd. That's all three changes made by the away side now.

86 minPENALTY APPEAL! A strong shout from virtually all of the Villa players as Agbonlahor hits the deck after he cut inside Aaron Hughes, who slides in. Replays show that it's a clear penalty, but neither referee Dean, not his assistant react and play continues. Villa, quite rightly, are not happy.

90 minThere will be three minutes of stoppage time at the end of this match.


3.24pmThat is a big win for Fulham - their first in seven outings. What's more, it has lifted them up to 18th and only goal difference is keeping them from safety.

3.25pmThat's all we have time for from Craven Cottage. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. Until next time, goodbye.

Rene Meulensteen the Fulham head coach waves to the fans prior to kickoff during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Swansea City at Craven Cottage on November 23, 2013
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