Sunday, 30 August 2009

Aston Villa 2 - 0 Fulham




A brilliant strike from Gabriel Agbonlahor helped Aston Villa to a comfortable victory over Fulham.
Villa took an early lead when John Pantsil headed into his own net after he was unable to cope with Ashley Young's superb in-swinging corner.
They doubled their advantage after the break when Agbonlahor took the ball off Fulham debutant Jonathan Greening and fired in from 25 yards.
Fulham created little, with Clint Dempsey heading wide from half-chances.
Villa did not have to work hard for their win and the contest will not feature on any Premier League Classic DVD series, but for 19-year-old debutant Ciaran Clark the match will live long in his memory.
Home win satisfactory for O'Neill
Clark, a product of the Villa academy, replaced injured centre-back Curtis Davies and put in a calm and steady performance.
He also proved a threat at the other end of the pitch when after 24 minutes he managed to get his 6ft 2in frame on the end of a Young corner but headed yards over - his reaction afterwards providing a picture of disgust.
Nevertheless, Clark ably carried out his primary duty of shutting the door on Fulham forwards Diomansy Kamara, Erik Nevland and Dempsey.
Villa's attacking threat, meanwhile, was led, as per usual, by the precocious Young.
His outstanding in-swinging delivery from a left-wing corner after three minutes led to the first goal when Pantsil, under pressure from Agbonlahor, could only head past his own keeper Mark Schwarzer.
Steve Sidwell should have added a second shortly after but fired over from the edge of the area after picking up Agbonlahor's chest-down.
Fulham were without the influential Danny Murphy in midfield and his absence was made more apparent by the west London's side predictable forward play.
The two opportunities they had fell to Dempsey, but the American's two headed attempts failed to panic keeper Brad Friedel.
Hodgson bemoans 'comedy of errors'
It was not until the second half that the next big chance of the game came, and that resulted in Villa's second goal.
Agbonlahor dispossessed Greening 40 yards from goal and charged forward before firing an unstoppable arrowed shot from 25 yards past Schwarzer's outstretched left hand.
For an already deflated Fulham, that goal ended any thoughts of getting something out of the match.
From the very first minute, the Cottagers looked lethargic following their Europa League exploits in Russia on Thursday.
With more Thursday-Sunday fixture combinations to come, Roy Hodgson's men will have to dig deep into their energy reserves or they could find themselves in trouble this season on the evidence of this performance.
Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:"It's pleasing to have won at home because our home form wasn't fantastic last season and certainly didn't match our away form.
"I'm delighted we've won three games in a week.
"The team - other than injured Curtis Davies - who played so brilliantly at Anfield deserved a second crack."
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson:"I don't think it was a very good performance from our point of view, particularly the first goal which we conceded so needlessly.
"We were up against a very strong Villa team and were unable to trouble them enough in the first half.
"In the second half we were slightly better but then conceded. When that happens, it's a long road back."

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