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West Ham United
8 December 2013
• Craven Cottage, London
Referee: M. Dean
• Attendance: 22288
S. Sidwell 21'
D. Berbatov 30'
Well, that's all from our LIVE coverage of events at Craven Cottage this afternoon. Many thanks for joining us!
Villa remain 10th in the table but could drop into the bottom half depending on tomorrow night's result between Swansea and Fulham.
That win means Fulham leapfrog Crystal Palace and go into 18th place on goals scored. It's very tight at the bottom, though, as they're just two points behind 15th-placed West Brom.
Villa boss Lambert, meanwhile, will be very disappointed at a distinct lack of fight from his side. Misfiring striker Christian Benteke has now gone nine games without a goal.
It's FULL TIME at Craven Cottage and Fulham have picked up a vital win this afternoon, with a fine performance to match. The midfield was superb and Berbatov was on inspired form, and Meulensteen will be absolutely delighted.
90' + 3'
BENTEKE TESTS STEKELENBURG!! The striker finally gets another attempt at goal as he's first to a loose ball, curling a dangerous effort which looks to be dipping just under the bar, but the Fulham shot-stopper produces a fine save to flick it over.
90' + 2'
Substitute Marc Albrighton launches the set piece into the box and Clark gets on the end of it, but there's no pace on the header and it's an easy save for Stekelenburg.
90' + 1'
Good defending from Baker, who does well to deal with a high ball under pressure from Berbatov and Kasami, before Villa get a free kick just inside the Fulham half.
It's a corner to Villa on the right-hand side and Westwood drills in a cross, but the whistle goes for a free kick to the hosts as the referee spots some pushing. We'll have three more minutes at Craven Cottage.
ANOTHER GOOD STRIKE FROM RIISE!! The full-back really wants a goal today, and he tests Guzan this time with a vicious strike from outside the box. The Villa goalkeeper is positioned well, though, and holds on to the ball.
GREAT CHANCE FOR KASAMI!! It's a lovely move down the right-hand side before it's pulled back to the substitute, who blazes high over the bar and almost out of the ground.
It's nearly job done for Fulham, who have the ball inside the Villa half and Baker is penalised for a push in midfield, giving the hosts a chance to run down the clock further.
Villa are still very unhappy about that penalty decision. That could have made for an uncomfortable last five minutes for the hosts.
Penalty? Great skill from Agbonlahor, who cuts inside Hughes and flicks the ball past the defender before being brought down. Nothing is given, but replays show the Villa forward might have been denied a clear spot kick there.
Dejagah nearly away!! Berbatov tries another deft flick which doesn't quite come off, but it bounces before Parker fires a half-volley over the top looking for his team-mate. Just cut out, though, and Villa have the ball.
Delph picks the ball up on the left-hand side and floats an early ball into the box looking for Benteke, but it's nowhere near accurate enough and Stekelenburg plucks it out of the air with ease.
Matthew Lowton replaces Herd, who has had a tough afternoon and has apparently been struggling with an eye problem all match.
Into the final 10 minutes at Craven Cottage, and Villa look bereft of ideas at the moment. They saw plenty of possession and territory early in this half but the hosts have really asserted themselves now.
SO CLOSE FROM RIISE!! The full-back has been very impressive going forward today, and he strides towards the box once more. Amid encouragement from the crowd he belts a long-range effort which swerves just wide of Guzan's near post.
Damien Duff is on for the hosts, replacing the impressive Kacaniklic. Fulham are in complete control of this game.
GREAT BLOCK!! That's superb from Herd, who shows real commitment to get in front of Riise, who was in space in the box and had fired a powerful shot at goal.
OFF THE LINE!! Kasami gets to the line and tries to pull it across the six-yard box. Baker's clearance hits Clark and looks bound for the goal before it's cleared off the line.
Westwood finds Tonev on the left, and the substitute skips past both Dejagah and Sidwell before firing an effort from 30 yards, but it hits Hughes and Fulham clear.
It's Karagounis who comes off, as Pajtim Kasami replaces the veteran midfielder. A sign of intent from Meulenteen perhaps? Looks like he might want another goal.
Benteke is lucky to escape a booking, there, as he clatters Riise in the air with a late challenge. Meanwhile, it looks like the hosts are preparing a change.
CHANCES AT BOTH ENDS!! Dejagah tests Guzan with a low 20-yard effort and Berbatov nearly reaches the follow-up, before Benteke nearly gets on the end of a cross but Riise hacks it away from the floor. Both Weimann and Westwood then struggle to get it out of their feet before the former flicks a shot at goal. It hits a defender and the visitors want a penalty, but the referee isn't interested.
Fulham are really on top of this game now, and will want a third to put the result beyond doubt. Villa are still dangerous on the break.
Yellow Card Chris Herd
That's rather petulant from Herd, who is challenged by Berbatov before the Villa defender takes out Karagounis with a poorly-timed tackle, earning him a yellow card.
Another chance! Riether is free on the right and drills in a low cross, which Sidwell slides in to meet but it hits a Villa defender and eventually goes back to Guzan.
OFF THE POST!! Dejagah does superbly to slide in and win the ball before getting up and playing the ball wide. It's fired into the box and Riise beats Guzan in the air, but his header loops down and flicks the upright.
Fulham have a free kick as Herd goes over the top of Berbatov in an aerial challenge. The defender has a cheeky dig at the Fulham man with his arm on the way down, but gets away with it.
Parker shoots wide!! Fulham aren't afraid to shoot, it seems, and Parker exchanges passes with Berbatov before slicing a 20-yard effort past Guzan's near post.
Oh dear. That's awful from Westwood, who gets the delivery all wrong, putting it straight into the stand behind the goal. Lambert does not look impressed.
Good work from Tonev, who flicks the ball past Parker before being clipped by the Fulham midfielder, and the visitors have a chance to fire in a dangerous ball...
DECENT HIT FROM KARAGOUNIS!! The midfielder has really solidified things for Fulham today, and he tries to help the hosts go further in front as he works the ball on to his right before unleashing an effort from 25 yards which fizzes just over the bar.
Once again we're up the other end straight away as Bacuna gets free on the right before firing in a cross looking for Benteke at the near post, but Senderos gets in front of him to head it behind for a corner.
More trouble in the Villa box as Riether's cross isn't completely dealt with and Sidwell gets to it first before trying to find Berbatov at the far post, but Baker manages to clear.
BERBATOV FIRES OVER!! It's the Bulgarian's turn to try a spectacular one as Parker floats a wonderful pass to the right-hand side of the box, and the Fulham striker meets it with a first-time volley which he blasts over the bar.
The set piece comes to nothing and goes behind off a Villa player, giving us all a chance to draw breath after that fast-paced opening to the half!
Straight up the other end!! Agbonlahor skips past Senderos with ease before floating a ball across the box. Weimann and Tonev come in late looking for it but Riise does well to get to it first and put it behind for a corner.
NEARLY FOR RIISE AND SENDEROS!! We've seen him do it for Liverpool, but the full-back doesn't quite get it right this time as he gets on the end of a diagonal ball with a first-time volley which he scuffs, but they have a corner. Senderos meets the set piece and powers a header at goal which Guzan does well to hold on to.
This is real end-to-end stuff, now. Fulham stop another Villa attack before it's spread wide to Kacaniklic, who is stopped in his tracks by Bacuna; legally this time.
Benteke should do better!! It comes out to Tonev on the right-hand side, and the substitute drills in a low corner, but Benteke's touch is too heavy and he is forced to lay back to Delph, whose shot is blocked. The hosts immediately break and Dejagah's low ball is just cut out before it reaches Sidwell at the far post.
Is that a smile from Berbatov? He's loving it out there as he produces an amazing backheel volley to find Sidwell, but sadly his flick came from an offside position.
The questions for Fulham, here, is whether they sit on their lead or press for more. At the moment they're the ones with the ball and seem to be carrying on as before.
Good start for Fulham, who are keeping the ball inside the Villa half. Dejagah receives the ball on the by-line but Clark slides in to put it behind for a corner, which evades everyone and comes to Westwood on the far side of the box.
K. El Ahmadi
The visitors get the ball rolling for the second half at Craven Cottage. Aleksandar Tonev is on for Villa as Lambert decides to change things immediately, with El Ahmadi coming off.
Not long until the restart, then. Will it be more of the same from Fulham, or can Villa assert themselves and get back into this match?
For Villa, the system change doesn't seem to have worked. They're overrun in the middle and are struggling to find a way through when they do have the ball. But for some brilliant defending by Baker and Clark, they could be even further behind.
That's the Berbatov we all enjoy watching. He showed some beautiful touches and sprayed some amazing passes around the pitch. The Fulham midfield has also been in complete control. Meulensteen will be a very happy man.
That's HALF TIME at Craven Cottage and Fulham take a 2-0 lead into the break, which you have to say is thoroughly deserved. Sidwell put the hosts in front with a dogged strike before Berbatov encapsulated his personality with a cool penalty to make it two.
45' + 2'
There's a bit of confusion, here. Villa think they have a free kick, but the referee stops things and says he never blew for the foul. Eventually, after much chatting, a drop ball is given and Sidwell gives it back to Guzan. All a bit pointless, really.
Herd is down after going up for a header with Berbatov, but he should be OK to carry on as we enter two minutes of added time at the end of the half.
OVER FROM BACUNA!! Karagounis is penalised for a foul just outside the box and it's Bacuna who lines up the free kick, whipping it over the wall but also high and wide of Stekelenburg's goal.
That's a bit cheeky from Meulensteen, there. Dejagah thinks he's won a throw off Baker but it's given the other way. The midfielder drops the ball and the Fulham boss gives it a cheeky kick away to stop Baker taking it quickly.
Another great challenge from Baker, who slides in to stop Riether in his tracks out on the flank, before the hosts spurn the opportunity as Dejagah is caught offside.
The set piece doesn't find Weimann, who had peeled off at the far post, and Riether heads the ball away. Disappointing for the visitors, there, as that was a really good chance.
Villa win a free kick on the right-hand side of the box as Berbatov goes up to block an El Ahmadi cross. The visitors want a penalty but it's just outside the area and Westwood will fire this one in...
BERBATOV NEARLY MAKES IT THREE!! The Bulgaria striker is on fine form this afternoon, and he exchanges passes with Kacaniklic on the edge of the box before charging in and firing a shot with the outside of his right foot, which Guzan diverts behind with a good stop.
That's a waste from Dejagah. Kacaniklic strides forward before Berbatov drops deep and takes over before spreading an excellent pass wide to Dejagah, but the cross is far too hard and it goes out for a throw.
The visitors are in possession but aren't really making any progress inside the Fulham half as the Cottagers press well.
This is turning into a very good afternoon for Meulensteen and his men. Villa are usually most dangerous on the break but will now have to be the ones pressing forward.
DELPH GOES CLOSE!! What a lovely move from Villa as Delph intercepts the ball and shows some silky footwork to skip away from Sidwell and find Benteke, who flicks it on for the midfielder and Delph blasts it wide from a tight angle.
Penalty Goal D. Berbatov
BERBATOV PUTS THE SPOT KICK AWAY!! Fulham are 2-0 up inside half an hour, and it's a typically nonchalant strike from the Bulgarian, as he strolls up to the ball before stroking it into the left-hand corner, sending Guzan the wrong way.
PENALTY TO FULHAM!! It's a brilliant break by the hosts as Berbatov sets Kacaniklic away with an absolutely stunning first-time pass. Bacuna sprints back to catch up but bundles the Fulham man over and the referee points to the spot.
Karagounis is clearly feeling much better. He tracks back well before taking out Agbonlahor with a strong shoulder. The ensuing free kick causes problems as Sidwell is forced to send a defensive header just wide of the post.
Good chance for Villa as Weimann sets Agbonlahor away down the right, and he whips in an early cross looking for Delph, but the midfielder is too late to get on the end of it and Stekelenburg claims comfortably.
Karagounis is back on after getting the OK from the physio, and we're back underway.
Ouch, that looks painful for Karagounis. Herd goes up for a header and the Fulham midfielder comes in late, ending up with a clattering of his own as the Villa defender can't stop in mid-air. The Greek comes off worse but it's Villa who have the free kick.
Close!! Berbatov drops deep to collect the ball and plays a beautiful pass around the defence looking for the run of Kacaniklic, but it just evades the wide man and Guzan rushes out to clear.
That's no more than the hosts deserve. Villa had a brief spell of pressure but the momentum has mostly been in favour of the hosts.
Assist Ashkan Dejagah
Goal Steve Sidwell
SIDWELL PUTS THE HOSTS AHEAD!! Fulham had just stepped up a gear and their reward comes. Sidwell plays it forward and it flicks up high off a white shirt before Berbatov and Dejagah link up well. The latter flicks a ball beyond the defence and Sidwell continues his run, chasing it to the line and hooking his left foot around it to send it past Guzan and into the far corner.
Yellow Card Fabian Delph
Real pressure from Fulham! Delph takes out Karagounis but play goes on and Berbatov works the ball to Kacaniklic, whose low shot is blocked but the pressure continues. Riether pops up on the left and swings in a cross which Berbatov meets but can't direct towards goal.
FULHAM SHOULD BE AHEAD!! Unbelievable drama!! The hosts have two brilliant chances in succession as Dejagah is away beyond the defence, but Clark produces a stunning last-ditch challenge to deny the Iranian, before Kacaniklic gets to the rebound but is denied on the line by Baker. Incredible!
STEKELENBURG DENIES BENTEKE!! After Senderos cuts in to stop Delph, he and Riether cause themselves their own problems, giving it away and the ball is worked inside to Benteke, who works the ball on to his right before firing a low shot at the Fulham goalkeeper from the edge of the box.
Westwood looks for Weimann on the edge of the box with a high ball, but Hughes watches it closely and heads clear. The Austrian had something of a height disadvantage, there.
Villa are just starting to grow into this game, now. The hosts' bright start has faded away, somewhat. Sidwell watches Benteke closely, though, and does well to stop the striker turning and then clear the ball forward.
WIDE FROM BENTEKE!! It's a massive let-off for Riether, who flails at a high ball over the top, completely missing it and letting Agbonlahor go free down the left-hand side of the box. The Villa man crosses for Benteke, who meets it with a late run and powers a low header wide of the far post.
The hosts are focussing most of their attacks down that left-hand side, and again Riise gets forward, this time turning Herd inside and out but overhitting his touch past the defender and the ball goes out for a goal kick.
Villa win a free kick just inside the Fulham have and Westwood drills a flat ball into the area. Baker manages to get on to it, but gets more on it that he needs to and the ball flies way over the bar.
FANTASTIC SAVE!! After Berbatov just misses out on meeting a Kacaniklic cross from the left, the striker rises to connect with a corner from the other side, guiding a header towards the top corner and drawing a superb one-handed stop from Guzan.
Agbonlahor is penalised for a foul on Parker deep inside the Fulham half and the hosts have it back. The visitors haven't got going yet.
The visitors try to set their first counter away as Benteke links up with Agbonlahor, but the latter's flick doesn't quite work out for the Belgian and Fulham clear.
Delph tries to bring the ball away for Villa but Karagounis slides in superbly to steal the ball back. The hosts are looking determined in these opening stages.
Riise fires in a long throw but it's headed away. Parker brings the ball down and looks for Riether but El Ahmadi cuts it out before he's fouled by the Fulham midfielder.
Villa already look happy to sit back and allow the hosts to keep possession. Good work from Herd on the flank, though, as he wins a throw off Kacaniklic deep inside his own half.
Good positive start from Fulham, who break down the right through Berbatov, but Delph is there to win the ball. Riether wins it back, though, and sends a pass through for Parker, but Delph does brilliantly to slide in and take the ball away.
We're underway at Craven Cottage as the hosts get the ball rolling for the first half.
Before we get started, there will be a minute's applause in honour of the iconic former South African president Nelson Mandela, who passed away aged 95.
It's a bright winter's day in west London, and the players are out to some suitably-dramatic music. Who will come out on top today? We're just a couple of minutes away from kick-off.
There are plenty of Santa hats being donned around Craven Cottage this afternoon. The home fans will definitely be hoping for an early Christmas present this afternoon, otherwise the Premier League table won't make pretty reading.
The first goal this afternoon is absolutely key. Fulham have only gained one point from 11 games in which they've been behind at some point in the match, while Villa have not dropped a single point from a winning position.
One man hoping to change that habit will be Christian Benteke. He has now gone eight games without a goal; the Belgium international hasn't set the Premier League alight like he did last season.
And if you're hoping for goals, the stats aren't on your side either. The last four meetings between these two have only produced a total of four goals.
This is the Cottagers' worst run of form since their first season in the Premier League in 2001-02, when they also lost six consecutive top-flight games. They have also only won four of 24 meetings with Aston Villa in the Premier League. It's not looking particularly promising...
The visitors' formation is up for debate, it seems, but Paul Lambert has definitely changed things up top as Christian Benteke returns after being dropped for the 3-2 win at Southampton. Chris Herd and Leandro Bacuna come into defence as it looks like it could also be a 4-3-3 for Aston Villa.
Fulham make just one change from Wesnesday's defeat to Tottenham, then, bringing in Steve Sidwell for Pajtim Kasami as the hosts appear to have switched to five in midfield, or possibly a fluid system switching to 4-3-3 at times. Ashkan Dejagah scored his first goal for the club in midweek and will certainly be looking to add to that today.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan; Herd, Baker, Clark, Bacuna; El Ahmadi, Delph, Westwood; Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann. // Subs: Steer, Lowton, Helenius, Albrighton, Bowery, Sylla, Tonev.
FULHAM: Stekelenburg; Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise; Parker, Karagounis, Sidwell; Dejagah, Kacaniklic; Berbatov. // Subs: Stockdale, Zverotic, Richardson, Kasami, Duff, Ruiz, Christensen.
The teams have been announced so let's bring you the line-ups, starting with the hosts...
Hello and welcome to LIVE coverage of the Sunday afternoon clash between Fulham and Aston Villa in the Premier League. The Cottagers have lost six on the bounce but new coach Rene Meulensteen will see this as a great chance to get their season back on track.
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