Marginalising senior players is a risky business, especially for new managers,
so it seemed a sensible move for Paul Lambert to bring agitated Darren Bent
Sadly for the Villa manager, politically helpful decisions are not always the
most efficient ones. Bent was virtually anonymous, as Villa offered scant
threat going forward, while the in-form Christian Benteke sat on the bench
for most of the game. The end product was another nil next to Villa’s name
and a deserved victory for
Chris Baird was the man who finally rewarded their persistence when he finished a John Arne Riise corner, ghosting in to steer the ball home at the near post. Villa, meanwhile, left here with this season’s goal tally stuck on six from eight Premier League games.
Discussing Bent’s selection, Lambert said: “Christian had two hard games with Belgium. Darren was fresh. I thought he did fine.” That was an unconvincing verdict. But Benteke did not help his own cause, shooting wide late on.
Fulham’s own talisman, Dimitar Berbatov, created early chances as Kieran Richardson’s snappy strike forced Brad Guzan to save and Mladen Petric headed wide.
The hosts wasted more openings as Berbatov hooked over and Steve Sidwell headed high, then Hugo Rodallega fired over from six yards in the second half. Villa’s resistance was finally broken by Baird, leading Fulham manager Martin Jol to say: “It was probably the worst corner-kick ever but if you attack the ball you can score.” The relief could be felt all around the Fulham support. For Villa, the anxiety goes on.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Riether, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise;
Rodallega, Sidwell (Karagounis 84), Baird, Richardson (Dejagah 71); Petric
(Diarra 64), Berbatov.
Subs not used: Stockdale (gk), Senderos, Kasami, Kacaniklic.
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker (Lichaj 62), Bennett; El Ahmadi, Delph; Holman, Ireland (N’Zogbia 66), Agbonlahor; Bent (Benteke 75).
Subs not used: Given (gk), Albrighton, Bannan, Weimann.
Booked: El Ahmadi, Lichaj.
Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).