Fulham 3-1 Aston Villa: Fulham beat 10-man Aston Villa to go sixth in the Sky Bet Championship
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 17/04/17 6:45pm
Fulham have entered the play-off places after comfortably beating 10-man Aston Villa 3-1 at Craven Cottage.
A first-half goal from 16-year-old Ryan Sessegnon helped Fulham on their way to securing all three points against Villa.
Jack Grealish equalised for the visitors shortly after the break, but Fulham took advantage of having an extra man following Jonathan Kodjia's red card (22) through goals from Sone Aluko and substitute Neeskens Kebalo.
Leeds' 1-0 defeat to Wolves means the Cottagers enter sixth spot in the Championship, a place above the Garry Monk's team on goal difference on 73 points. Aston Villa sit in 12th.
Fulham were without talismanic striker Chris Martin for the fixture, meaning Aluko was the man to lead the line against Villa's back five. Scott Hogan partnered Kodjia up front, but was then forced to lead the attack on his own following the Ivorian's dismissal.
Fulham began the half quickly and were keen to get the ball down the channels as quickly as possible. The Cottagers were able to capitalise on their early spell of possession by scoring the game's opening goal.
A lofted ball into the box by Ryan Fredericks from the right flank landed at the feet of Fulham's highly-rated Sessegnon, who volleyed a shot which smacked off the crossbar before smashing in the rebound to score his seventh goal of the season.
And with Villa's defence looking increasingly shaky, it was not long before they were down to ten men as Kodjia kicked out at Fredericks in the 21st minute, resulting in a straight red card after the referee consulted with his linesman.
Fredericks was lucky to also remain on the pitch, as he appeared to kick at Kodjia before falling to the ground beforehand.
Fulham continued to try and make the most of their extra man by playing the ball out wide to stretch Aston Villa's five-man defence, with a long-range strike from Fredericks and a reactive effort from Tim Ream in the box going wide of the mark.
Despite Fulham's impressive start, it would be Villa who would find a surprise equaliser early in the second half. Grealish picked the ball up on the left edge of the box, before chopping inside to evade Fredericks and created just enough space to curl a shot into the top right corner.
With Villa looking like they might find another goal after enjoying a spell of possession, Fulham would take the lead again through Aluko. A neat one-two between Sessegnon and Stefan Johansen saw the 16-year-old peg the ball back for Aluko to hit a shot on the volley, from close-range, which deflected off Nathan Baker into the bottom left corner.
Fulham then secured a two-goal cushion with a third goal just over ten minutes from time. Johansen made a strong run through the middle, with no Villa player committing to a challenge. The former Celtic midfielder then stroked a pass to substitute Kebano, who was free on the right-hand side in the box, and he slotted the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Despite Villa attempting to get back into the game, they failed to create any dangerous goalscoring opportunities, meaning Fulham now have a play-off spot to try and hold on to for the rest of the season.
Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic:
"Today was a fantastic atmosphere at Craven Cottage, my players believe, and I believe we can finish in the top six. We showed the quality and the character. We believe in the way we want to play football. It will encourage us for the last three games.
"It's important for the next steps to concentrate on the next game. I'm not thinking who will be chasing us or which team we will be chasing. We need to concentrate on our work and the next game."
Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce:
"The fourth official asked me four times to step inside my technical area within the first 12 minutes. It was him who gave the decision for Kodjia, and he's missed the first kick at him by the full-back. And that's provoked him.
"We have 3,500 people spending their hard-earned money, it's live on the telly and you never want to see it. They want to see the players perform. It cannot be deemed as violent conduct, surely. I hope the referee looks at it, because the referee didn't give it - the fourth official did."