LIVE: Fulham 2 Aston Villa 0 - all the Premier League action as it happened from Craven Cottage

By Dan Ripley


Follow Sportsmail's coverage of the Barclays Premier League as Fulham hosted Aston Villa at Craven Cottage to kick off Sunday's action.

The hosts were attempting to avoid an eighth straight defeat as Rene Meulensteen searched for his first win as Cottagers boss since taking over from the sacked Martin Jol.

Villa recorded an impressive 3-2 win at Southampton in midweek and were chasing consecutive victories to put them level on points with ninth-placed Manchester United in the table.

But led by an inspired Dimitar Berbatov, the Cottagers recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Steve Sidwell and the Bulgarian.

Send me your thoughts on the action at or via Twitter @Ripley_77.

Dan Ripley

Host commentator


That's all from me at Craven Cottage though, you can check all the post-match reaction on the homepage.

For now we turn our attention to Arsenal v Everton at the Emirates Stadium which kicks off at 4pm.

Join me on the above link to follow all the action as the Gunners attempt to pull seven points clear at the top of the table, and the visitors try to record a second famous victory inside a week after winning at Manchster United on Wednesday.

I'll see you there!


They threatened on Wednesday but Fulham are finally back to winning ways after ending a seven-match losing streak. They stay in the bottom three but only goal difference sees West Ham keep them in the relegation zone. Palace in 19th are also on 13 points with the two sides.

A bad day at the office for Villa who miss out on going level on points with Manchester United in ninth.

FULL-TIME: Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa

90min: There will be three additional minutes - Rene Meulensteen is heading for his first win as Fulham boss. Judging by today, the second victory shouldn't be too far away.


89min: A minute from time and Riise is still firing in missiles as his latest effort on goal is straight down the throat of Guzan who takes easily.

From Sportsmail's Riath Al-Samarrai at Craven Cottage

'I love some of the overly detailed chants from the lady sat close to the press box. 'Come on Fulham, it's important that we get another goal.'

It will catch on...


84min: It's just not Villa's day as after conceding a soft penalty in the first half they are denied a clear spot-kick in the second.

Agbonlahor's tricky feet see him cut inside from the right into the box, drawing a tackle from Aaron Hughes which gets none of the ball and all of the forward's ankle. However nothing is given by the referee or the assistant, with the latter having a clear view of the incident.

No penalty: Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor appeals for a spot-kick were turned down by officials
Aston Villa substitution

81min: A double change for Villa as they go for broke to rescue this game. Marc Albrighton and Matthew Lowton replace Weimann and Herd.

From Sportsmail's Riath Al-Samarrai at Craven Cottage

'It's hard going on impossible to see Villa getting back into this. Basic tasks like tracking runners has been some way beyond them today.

'Fulham, though, have looked very good. Berbatov is even chasing lost causes and the fans are loving it. A lot of love for Meulensteen as well. 'Meulensteen's black and white army' is being sung, which is a nice change to the boos that Jol used to get.'


78min: Riise is still searching for his first Fulham goal but he looks like his old Liverpool self today as he lets fly with another powerful effort that whistles just wide of the near post.

Battle for the ball: Aston Villa's Nathan Baker (left) and Fulham's Ashkan Dejagah contest possession
Fulham substitution

77min: A second switch for Fulham as they close in on a morale boosting victory, as Damien Duff comes on for Kacaniklic.


76min: Fulham still look like the side most likely to score - with Villa even helping them at times. Clark and Guzan get mixed up from a cross that nearly results in an own gal before Herd clears off the line, while Riise sees a powerful low effort blocked moments later.

Fulham substitution

73min: First change for Fulham and big cheers for the veteran Karagounis from the home fans as he is replaced by Pajtim Kasami.


70min: Chances for both teams now. Guzan saves a 20-yard drive by Dejagah before spilling and pouncing on his error just as Berbatov was closing in.

At the other end Fulham scramble to clear from their own box, only to give the ball straight to Andreas Weimann whose shot from inside the area is blcoked and then cleared.


67min: Chris Herd is in a running battle with Berbatov and after being shoved off the ball by the striker, reacts by lunging in dangerously on Karagounis to pick up no-brainer of a yellow card. Herd is now complaining to the bench he can't see properly - very bizarre.

Up in the air: Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov (front) tangles with Aston Villa's Chris Herd

65min: Commentator's curse. Suddenly it's all action in the Villa penalty box, as Guzan is completely out of position to deal with a Fulham cross, resulting in Riise heading off the near post before Villa scramble clear.


64min: The game has gone a little flat for the first time. Fulham are understandably not as keen to attack but Villa are still not offering much of an attacking threat. Lambert must be pondering another change.


61min: Lambert is furious on the Villa touchline, as Westwood wastes another set-piece by over hitting a 35-yard free-kick over the crossbar.

The midfielder has been very poor with his dead balls this afternoon - it's about time someone else took over because Fulham are not being tested from otherwise dangerous set-pieces.

Encouragement: Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen (left) instructs his team as Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert looks on in the background

58min: Villa pressure from two corners, the first is headed behind by Parker and Westwood's second delivery is easily cleared by first man Riise.

Lambert's troops haven't exactly found another gear since the break.


55min: There's even a smile on Berbatov's face now - he really is enjoying today's game. Parker's hanging cross towards the backpost finds the Bulgarian whose speculative volley from an acute angle (think Van Basten at Euro 88) is fired miles off target.


52min: Old school John Arne Riise. A fantastic crossfield ball picks out the full-back inside the box, whose volley across goal is turned behnd for a corner - it's incredible that he still hansn't scored for the Cottagers.

Moments later, Senderos sees a header well plucked out the air by Guzan.

Collision course: Aston Villa's Chris Herd (left) collides with Fulham's Giorgos Karagounis

50min: Top play from Agbonlahor. The forward does well to hold off Parker in a challenge, before breaking towards the Fulham box and laying off to Tonev on the right.

The substitute crosses low along the box but it's just behind Agbonlahor, before Benteke picks the ball up and lays it back to Westwood whose low strike is blocked to safety.


47min: Fulham threaten early as they win a corner but Karagounis' ball into the centre is cleared by the visitors.

SECOND-HALF: Aston Villa make one change as they restart

Karim El Ahmadi departs for the visitors as Aleksandar Tonev replaces him to begin the second half.

Tough in the tackle: Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor (left) is challenged by Fulham's Giorgos Karagounis
From OptaJoe

12 - Villa made 12 more passes in the first half vs Fulham than they did in 90 minutes in the win at Southampton on Weds. Blueprint.

Dimitar Berbatov stars for Fulham in first half

It's interesting to see the heat map from Dimitar Berbatov at half-time.

Many heat maps from the Fulham striker this season have shown him heat up areas outside the box, but now he is starting to venture in them a bit more.

He's dropping back a bit too, appearing often in areas on the halfway line - he certainly has impressed so far.

You can check out more heat maps from today's games by clicking here for Sportsmail's Match Zone.

A threat all over: Dimitar Berbatov hovered in attacking areas for Fulham in the first half

And that stat from our friends at Opta below sums up Fulham so far. It's been a long time since they looked this confident and vibrant - especially after taking the lead.

Having Berbatov on a good day is a big plus and so far Villa haven't responded - or the Cottagers haven't allowed them too. There is still a long way to go but Paul Lambert will need to think of a Plan B on this evidence.

From OptaJoe

5 - Fulham have already had more shots on target than in nine of their previous 14 PL games this season (5). Perky.

HALF-TIME: Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa
So far so good: Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen applauds the fans at Craven Cottage

45+1min: We are into two minutes added on as Herd goes off for a minor head injury following a clash with Berbatov - he should be okay to continue.


45min: Silly from Riether who on the cusp of half-time gives Villa a free-kick 20 yards from goal after holding back Benteke. Bacuna, looking for redemption after being involved for both of Fulham's goals, is standing over it.

The Dutchman though curls his free-kick over the crossbar.

From OptaJoe

31 - Fulham's starting XI today is the first time this season a PL team has named one with an average age of more than 31 (31y 25d). Golden.

From Sportsmail's Riath Al-Samarrai at Craven Cottage

'Feels strange to write this, but Berbatov has been excellent so far. His volleyed pass that led to the penalty was superb and his penalty was delightfully nonchalant. He's actually running around a bit, as well.'


39min: Berbatov is constantly involved, although this time it's to give Villa free-kick on the right side of the Fulham box after blocking a cross with his arm. Ashley Westwood's back post delivery is cleared though.

Under pressure: Aston Villa's Christian Benteke (left) is tackled by Fulham's Steve Sidwell

36min: Villa boss Paul Lambert will be wanting half-time here because Fulham are playing out their skins - and that includes Berbatov who is 'in the mood' shall we say.

The Bulgarian picks up possession on the edge of the area, before running into the box and with the outside of his boot blasting a shot towards goal which is well parried by Guzan.

From InfostradaLive

'Dimitar Berbatov scores his 17th PL goal for Fulham, moving him joint-eighth with Danny Murphy on the club's PL leading scorers list.'

GOAL! FULHAM 2-0 Aston Villa

30min: It's (un)official, folks. Football is no longer a contact sport. Fulham counter through a quite superb through ball from Dimitar Berbatov, but as Kacaniklic and Bacuna contest a fair shoulder barge inside the box, the former goes down easily to win a soft spot-kick.

Berbatov steps up and with ridiculous composure tucks away the penalty into the bottom corner like it's a low-key Sunday morning kick-a-bout (it was classic Berbatov and I've missed that in recent times from the brilliant Bulgarian)

Controversial: Alex Kacaniklic wins a penalty for Fulham after contesting possession with Villa's Leandro Bacuna
Casual: Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov scores his side's second goal of the game from the penalty spot
PENALTY (Fulham)
From Sportsmail's Riath Al-Samarrai at Craven Cottage

'Early in the day, but this is far better from Fulham. Even if you discount Sidwell's goal, they have been the better side. Hard to say at this stage that it's Meulensteen effect, but their a lot more energy to their game compared to the others I've seen them play this season.'


27min: Agbonlahor has played a couple of teasing passes in attack for Villa so far, but the latest is just too quick for Delph who under pressure from Riether is beaten to a cross by Stekelenburg who collects.


From OptaJoe

9 - Nine of Steve Sidwell's 10 Premier League goals for Fulham have come at Craven Cottage. Industry.

GOAL! FULHAM 1-0 Aston Villa

21min: The pressure bubble finally burst for Villa - and it's a former player who scores against them. Steve Sidwell out-muscles and out-thinks Bacuna chasing an Ashkan Dejagah through ball, before sliding the ball past Guzan across goal and into the bottom corner. It's a very cute finish.

Reach for your goals: Fulham's Steve Sidwell (left) slides in to score the opening goal
Thumbs up from me: Sidwell celebrates after giving Fulham the lead

19min: What a game this is becoming. Ashkan Dejagah is released through on goal but he fails to get a shot away thanks to the onrushing Guzan and Ciaran Clark.

The ball falls loose for Alex Kacaniklic, whose goal bound effort is cleared off the line by Nathan Baker. The hosts keep the ball alive though and Kacaniklic goes close again moments later before seeing his shot across goal turned behind for a corner.

Just to add to spice, Delph is retrospectively booked for a very late sliding tackle on Giorgos Karagounis which happened amongst all that...phew!


17min: Benteke goes close again! Fulham fail to clear their lines before Fabian Delph squares for the Belgian whose 20-yard effort is straight at Maarten Stkelenburg.


15min: That chance seems to have woken Villa up as they now control possession. Fulham look happy to sit-back and allow them to do it too, rather than press the visitors.


12min: Fulham are showing signs of taking control but Villa are alert to any error from the hosts.

Sascha Riether makes a mess of trying to deal with a Villa ball over the top of his head, and it allows Gabriel Agbonlahor the opportunity to pick up possession on the left side.

The forward crosses centrally for Benteke but under pressure the striker nods wide. It wasn't straight forward but you would back him to score those... well I would anyway.

Playing return: Chris Herd of Aston Villa is challenged by Alex Kacaniklic of Fulham as the former makes his first appearance since New Year's Day

9min: Ah right on cue! After a blocked shot wins Fulham a corner, a delivery to the back post finds Dimitar Berbatov, whose header towards the top corner is brilliantly saved by Brad Guzan.

The American leapt to his top right at full stretch to tip the ball away - I doubt he will make many better this afternoon.


8min: The sun has reappeared through from one corner of the ground but that is our only breakthrough so far as both sides remain evenly matched in the middle of the park. Neither side have forced through a shot as yet.


5min: The tough tackling isn't just for Benteke either as Scott Parker slides right through Leandro Bacuna to give Villa a free-kick in a defensive position.

This time that is slightly harsh on the hosts though as Parker appeared to win the ball.


2min: It's easy to see Fulham's plan for Christian Benteke - get stuck in. Philippe Senderos is straight on the Villa striker and it's fair to say leaves his mark with a late tackle. No bookings but a definite statement of intent from the defender of what's to come for the next 88 minutes.

Take that: Aston Villa's Christian Benteke (left) is challenged by Fulham's Philippe Senderos in the early stages

Following a minute's applause from all inside the ground to mark the passing of Nelson Mandela, we get underway.

Get the most out of Sportsmail's live coverage by following today's action with Match Zone.

It features the latest line-ups, formations and key match stats. In addition there are heat zones for all the players as well as detailed maps of the goals as they go in - check it out on the above link.

Respect: Fulham and Aston Villa players applaud for a minute in tribute to former South Africa president Nelson Mandela

Out come the players at Craven Cottage, with the late autumn sunshine casting a full shadow over the pitch.

From Sportsmail's Riath Al-Samarrai at Craven Cottage

'Adding to the festive feeling here, Fulham staff have been handing out free Santa hats outside the ground. Which is nice. Given how Fulham have played at home this season, I'm not sure the happy mood is going to linger.'

Festive cheer: Two Fulham fans walk to Craven Cottage before the game
A (slightly worrying) stat from our friends at InfostradaLive

ON THIS DAY: Last year, Aston Villa drew 0-0 at home against Stoke, the match that had the fewest shots on goal (2) in the PL last season. Fulham v Aston Villa (Oct 2012) was one of the four Premier League matches last season that had next fewest shots on goal (3).

Of course, that surely paves the way for today's encounter to produce a seven-goal thriller. I'm backing those deadly strikers in Christian Benteke and Dimitar Berbatov to deliver.

Full line-ups from Craven Cottage

Fulham: Stekelenburg, Riether, Senderos, Hughes, Riise, Parker, Sidwell, Karagounis, Dejagah, Berbatov, Kacaniklic. Subs: Kasami, Ruiz, Stockdale, Richardson, Duff, Zverotic, Christensen.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Bacuna, Baker, Clark, Herd, Delph, El Ahmadi, Westwood, Weimann, Benteke, Agbonlahor. Subs: Helenius, Albrighton, Steer, Sylla, Bowery, Tonev, Lowton.

Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

Chris Herd to make first appearance since New Year's Day

From a personal perspective it's a big day for Chris Herd as he plays his first game since New Year's Day after fracturing his foot in training.

The Villa defender stars for the visitors, so a big welcome back to the Australian.

Return: Aston Villa's Chris Herd (front) will play his first match since New Year's Day
Fulham boss Rene Meulensteen spoke to Sky Sports before the game

'It's no use putting in a performance like we did on Wednesday and not live up to it the next game. The players are aware of that.

'It's a new start I just want to reinvigorate the squad and show there is more than shown in recent weeks - we did that on Wednesday. Everyone is in good spirits and happy we can perform.'

And a good afternoon to Sportsmail's Riath Al-Samarrai at Craven Cottage

'Beautiful weather at Craven Cotage, but again that means I won't be able to see anything until the sun goes down.

'In the absence of any visuals, I can therefore tell you that the carol singers next to the Johnny Haynes statue were magnificent.

'Recalling a time earlier in the day that I could see, there was a dog trying to jump through the open window of a burger van. Not sure why that's relevant, but it made me laugh.'

Villa backed by the Power Rangers

Some more bad news for Fulham. It looks like Aston Villa are being supported by two members of the Power Rangers this afternoon.

I say that because surely no one with a rational mind would attend a football match dressed as one? In defence of the Villa supporters, you can't blame them for looking back to the mid-1990s, it was after all the last time their side won a major trophy - too long for a club that size.

Villains dressed as heroes: Two Aston Villa fans attend the game dressed as Power Rangers

Philippe Senderos shrugs off the thigh strain that hindered him against Spurs to start alongside Aaron Hughes in the centre of Fulham's defence.

Kieran Richardson is fit to take his place among the substitutes, after illness and hamstring trouble.

Villa boss Paul Lambert makes three changes to the side that edged out Southampton 3-2 at St Mary's Stadium.

Sing when you're losing?

Given the horrendous run Fulham have been in lately, it's surprising to see some festive cheer outside Craven Cottage in the build up to today's game.

Fans arriving early would have been greeted by carol singers outside the stadium, although I'm sure only three points will send the Fulham fans home happy. At least they don't only sing when they're winning...

In full voice: Fulham fans sing Christmas carols outside Craven Cottage
Singing from the same hymn sheet: Two of the fans sing carols with Fulham mascot Billy the Badger inbetween
Aston Villa starting XI

Guzan, Herd, Baker, Clark, Bacuna, El Ahmadi, Delph, Westwood, Agbonlahor, Weimann, Benteke.

One change for Fulham

Just one change from the 2-1 defeat suffered by Tottenham for Fulham as Steve Sidwell replaces Pajtim Kasami in Rene Muelensteen's second game in charge for Fulham.

Lasse Vigen Christensen is on the bench for the first time.

Fulham starting XI

Stekelenburg, Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise, Parker, Karagounis, Sidwell, Dejagah, Kacaniklic, Berbatov.

Good afternoon, all

Just the two Premier League games today but they cover both the pinnacle of the table and the scrap against relegation as we wrap up the weekend in the top flight.

Later on we will see if Arsenal can pull seven points clear at the top of the table when they host Everton but we begin with Fulham v Aston Villa where the hosts look to end a run of seven straight losses. Team news is on the way


The comments below have not been moderated.

It was Mike Dean who rescued Manchester United with a penalty against Spurs last week when it was quite clear that Welbeck had dived.

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Meulensteen will get the best out of berba

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Ref gave a debatable penalty to Fulham but not to Gabby for being brought down. Fulham just wanted it more today, Villa's defence not good, hope Vlaar is back next Sunday and Benteke remembers where the goalmouth is.

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Meulensteen will get the best out of Berba.

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As a Liverpool fan its great to see Riise playing well still at the top level. Great servant for his clubs. Hope Fulham get the result today

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Mike Dean a ref? You must be joking why don't they make it completely non contact!

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Not a penalty

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Come on Villa.. will be nice to see you above Man U..

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Come on Villa! Smash in 4 goals so you can pass Yawnited in the table.

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A villa win today puts them on same points as united. No offence to villa but there united's closet rivals in the league NOT liverpool, city, arsenal, Chelsea or even Everton LOL

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