Fulham piled even more pressure on Steven Gerrard – leading to him being sacked – after beating Aston Villa 3-0 at Craven Cottage.
Villa arrived in west London in a perilous position, 17th in the Premier League and above the relegation zone on goal difference alone. After one win in their previous five matches Fulham’s form was similarly shaky, leaving both sides in urgent need of victory.
The hosts dominated the first half, putting Villa under pressure from the off. Emi Martinez twice denied Willian and tipped over a curling free-kick from Andreas Pereira, while Aleksandar Mitrovic twice headed off target from menacing positions and, around the 15-minute mark, was only denied the opener after Tyrone Mings cleared off the line.
Neither Martinez nor Mings were able to keep out Harrison Reed, however, with the Fulham midfielder scoring after a period of sustained pressure. Pereira saw two shots deflected – the first onto the roof of the net, the second just wide – before sending in a corner which was cleared as far as Reed, who thundered home from just outside the area.
Fulham continued to create the better chances after the break and, were it not for scattergun finishing from Mitrovic, they would have pulled further ahead. Regardless, Fulham’s No 9 soon left his mark on the game.
After a foul from Mings on Willian in the middle of the park – for which the Villa defender was booked – Mitrovic barged into Douglas Luiz off the ball. Luiz moved his head towards his opponent and Mitrovic went down in a heap, leaving Michael Oliver, the referee, with little choice but to show the Brazilian a straight red after a VAR review.
Mitrovic got on the scoresheet not long afterwards, winning a penalty after catching Matty Cash on the hand with a shot inside the area. Oliver pointed to the spot and, while Martinez guessed the right way, the Fulham man forced the ball into the back of the net.
Fulham added a third late on when Neeskens Kebano got to the byline and pinged in a cross which was turned in by Mings, whose deflated expression summed up Villa’s evening.
Gerrard was sacked after the match.
TALKING POINT – PASSIVE PERFORMANCE FROM VILLA
Before the match, Gerrard said: “I’m not going to hide away from anything. I want to be judged in the now as well… I totally understand the situation we’re in and how important it is to have a positive week.”
There was no hiding from the inadequacy of this performance, with the travelling fans greeting the full-time whistle with a chorus of boos. It proved a defeat too many for Villa’s owners, who promptly sacked Gerrard after the game.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – ANDREAS PEREIRA (FULHAM)
While Mitrovic will hog the headlines, Pereira showed subtle excellence in attacking midfield.
His movement often opened up channels for those around him to run into, pulling Villa’s defence out of shape, while his composure on the ball was impressive throughout. Kebano deserves a special mention for a lively performance out wide, but Pereira was the more consistent threat.
Fulham: Leno 7, Robinson 6, Ream 6, Diop 7, Reid 7, Palhinha 7, Reed 8, Kebano 8, Pereira 8, Willian 6, Mitrovic 7.. subs: Cairney 6, James 5, Wilson N/A, Vinicius N/A, Harris N/A
Aston Villa: Martinez 7, Konsa 4, Bednarek 4, Mings 4, Young 4, Ramsey 4, Luiz 2, McGinn 4, Bailey 3, Watkins 4, Ings 3.. subs: Cash 4, Buendia 4, Dendoncker 5, Archer 4
16’ OFF THE LINE! A deflected shot from Pereira loops up onto the roof of the net, giving Martinez a scare. From the ensuing corner, Pereira sends another deflected effort just wide. The second corner falls for Mitrovic, who gets a low header on target. Mings makes a goal-saving intervention.
36’ GOAL! What a hit. Fulham’s corner is cleared as far as Reed, who blasts a shot past the despairing Martinez.
62’ RED CARD! It’s a daft one from Luiz, who allowed himself to be provoked by Mitrovic. Oliver only needs to see it once on the monitor before showing him a straight red.
66’ PENALTY! Villa will feel hard done-by there. Mitrovic gets a shot away from a tight angle and it strikes Cash on the hand at close range. His arm was away from his body, however, and Oliver points to the spot.
68’ GOAL! Martinez goes the right way, but can’t keep out Mitrovic’s effort from 12 yards.
83’ OWN GOAL! Mitrovic picks out Kebano on the left. He gets to the byline and thrashes in a cross which Mings turns into his own net.