The Villa Match Report – Aston Villa 1 Fulham 0
In a Word
Proficient: ‘Very skilled and experienced at something.’
The Carter Report
By Rob Carter
Pre-match talk before the Fulham game had been dominated by matters off the pitch, with the 15% season ticket price rise causing consternation amongst many Villa fans. The timing of the announcement, after perhaps the best performance in the last 10 years, had been seen by some as a touch convenient. Clinical marketing by the club? Perhaps. But one thing was for sure – if Villa could put Fulham to the sword, they would rise to 5th in the table, a season high.
An unchanged team took the field, with Emi Martinez thankfully recovering from a bout of illness, which saw him withdrawn at half time at the weekend. The alternative, Robin Olsen, would have had many home fans reaching for the Imodium, but thankfully this was not needed.
There was expectation in the Aston air, but this was almost dashed immediately as Fulham made a fast start, with a slick move ending in Andreas Pereira firing into the side netting in front of the Holte End.
Villa dominated the opening exchanges, however, and after a flurry of corners, went ahead after a superb John McGinn corner was flicked home by Tyrone Mings after 21 minutes.
The rest of the half flashed by as the home side’s momentum began to grow, with Watkins and McGinn coming close.
The mood on the Holte concourse was cautiously optimistic during the interval; the visitors had not offered much, and the feeling was that another goal would surely seal the win.
What nobody was expecting was the complete non-event that the second half turned out to be. Villa confidently nullified any latent Fulham threat, with one exception, as an offside flag (thankfully backed up by VAR) denied the visitors what would have been an undeserved equaliser.
A double substitution on 77 minutes saw Alex Moreno and Jacob Ramsey replaced by Lucas Digne and Bertrand Traore. Calum Chambers replaced Ashley Young on 85 minutes, as Unai Emery sought to close down the game.
A late McGinn effort, screwed wide from the edge of the box, proved to be the last chance of the game as Villa maintained their excellent run.
If the Newcastle performance was a tornado, this was a gentle breeze, but the result was the same; another three points, another clean sheet and another lovely feeling when leaving the ground. Fulham weren’t so much blown away as swatted aside like an annoying insect.
A special mention must go to Mings here. In a season that started with him being stripped of the captaincy and dropped from the side, he has become a colossus in central defence. Gareth Southgate take note (and Steven Gerrard).
A professional, competent performance against a limited Fulham side was in marked contrast to the woeful, inadequate, and forgettable display in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage, which proved to be Gerrard’s last game in charge.
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What has happened since then has been nothing short of remarkable. Under Emery’s expert guidance, Villa look completely transformed. Villa have suddenly become the team nobody wants to play.
The Emery Express rolls into Old Trafford on Sunday, in what could prove to be yet another pivotal game in the quest for a European spot.
All aboard – and don’t forget your passports.