Aston Villa moved up to fifth in the Premier League and leapfrogged Tottenham with a 1-0 win over Fulham at Villa Park on Tuesday night as they stretched their unbeaten run to 10 games.
Unai Emery’s side are on a mission to qualify for Europe after 12 years away and they showed no sign of slowing down against Fulham with Tyrone Mings’ first-half header clinching their eighth win in their last 10 games after an impressive first-half display.
Fulham head coach Marco Silva this week took exception to suggestions his side were “on the beach”, but the Cottagers produced a poor display in Birmingham and failed to trouble Villa despite the hosts taking their foot off the gas after the break.
Villa now sit a point above managerless Spurs having played a game more than the north Londoners, who host fourth-placed Manchester United on Thursday night. Fulham, meanwhile, saw their two-game winning run come to an end but they remain a point above west London rivals Brentford in ninth.
- Emiliano Martinez recovered from a stomach bug to start for Aston Villa as Unai Emery named an unchanged side.
- Fulham head coach Marco Silva brought Dan James into the team and had to make a late tweak with Willian dropping out of the line-up for Manor Solomon.
Villa march on in their pursuit for European football
Villa’s last encounter with Fulham put an end to Steven Gerrard’s time in charge of the club as a demoralizing 3-0 defeat at Craven Cottage proved to be the final straw. But the outlook could not be more different at Villa Park now under Emery as the Villans march on in pursuit of European football for the first time since the 2010/11 season.
There was an early scare for Villa, though, as Andreas Pereira’s acrobatic effort flashed just wide and into the side netting after two minutes. Villa quickly took charge of the game and came close themselves only for Ashley Young’s goal-bound strike from the edge of the box to be deflected away by Harrison Reed.
Villa felt they should have been awarded a penalty after Tosin Adarabioyo’s challenge on Ollie Watkins, although replays showed the Fulham defender did get a touch on the ball first. The Video Assistant Referee looked at the incident but stuck with the on-field decision from referee Thomas Bramall.
After seeing Willian removed from the starting line-up just before kick-off and replaced by Manor Solomon, Fulham were forced into another change as Harry Wilson came off feeling unwell in the 17th minute for Bobby Decordova-Reid.
Villa’s pressure finally paid from a corner as John McGinn’s delivery was flicked on at the near post by Mings for the centre-back’s first goal of the season to give Villa a deserved lead after 20 minutes. Fulham looked out of ideas but managed to hold on to keep the score at 1-0 at the break.
Emery’s side, to the dismay of their animated manager on the sideline, became complacent in the second half as they tried to slow the game down and nearly paid for it when Reed put the ball in the back of the net for Fulham with eight minutes left to play, but they were saved by a marginal offside.
Regardless of an underwhelming performance in the second half, Villa managed to hold on for their fifth consecutive clean sheet at home as they continue to strengthen their bid for European qualification.
AstonVilla‘s quest for European football continues at Manchester United on Sunday at 2pm.
Fulham host title-chasing Manchester City on Sunday, live on Sky Sports. Kick-off 2pm.
Aston Villa’s remaining fixtures
April 30: Man Utd (A) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm
May 6: wolves (A) – Premier League, 3pm kick-off
May 13: Tottenham (H) – Premier League, 3pm kick-off
May 20: liverpool (A) – Premier League, 3pm kick-off
May 28: Brighton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
Fulham’s remaining fixtures
April 30: Manchester City (H) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports
May 3: liverpool (A) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm
May 8: Leicester (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 13: Southampton (A) – Premier League, 3pm kick-off
May 20: Crystal Palace (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Man Utd (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm