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Fulham vs Aston Villa. Premier League.

Craven CottageAttendance24,401.

Fulham 1

  • R Muniz Carvalho (63rd minute)

Aston Villa 2

  • O Watkins (23rd minute, 56th minute)

Fulham 1-2 Aston Villa: Ollie Watkins scores twice as Unai Emery's men climb back into fourth

Report and free match highlights from the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Aston Villa at Craven Cottage on Saturday; Ollie Watkins scores twice as Unai Emery's men climb back into fourth place in the table

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League clash between Fulham and Aston Villa.

Aston Villa took advantage of Tottenham's slip against Wolves to climb back into the Premier League top four with a 2-1 win away at Fulham.

Ollie Watkins scored a clinical opener midway through the first half, during which both teams had a goal ruled out, and doubled his tally with a cool second after he had been found by Youri Tielemans.

Fulham did pull one back just after the hour, when the in-form Rodrigo Muniz nipped in to scored his fourth goal in his last three outings.

Ollie Watkins roars in celebration after scoring at Fulham
Image: Ollie Watkins roars in celebration after scoring at Fulham

That ignited the crowd at a chilly Craven Cottage, but it was not enough to spark a comeback to prevent a fifth defeat in nine league games.

They stay in 12th, while Unai Emery's Villa establish a two-point lead over fifth-placed Spurs and an eight-point advantage over Man Utd in sixth.

How Watkins got Villa back on track

The ball was in the net inside the first two minutes at Craven Cottage. Watkins latched onto a defence-splitting ball and beat Bernd Leno at his near post, before the linesman's flag swiftly ended any celebrations in the packed Villa away end.

Player ratings

Fulham: Leno (5), Castagne (5), Diop (6), Ream (5), Robinson (6), Palhinha (6), Cairney (5), Decordova-Reid (5), Andreas (6), Willian (6), Rodrigo Muniz (7).

Subs: Iwobi (5), Wilson (6), Traore (5), Bassey (5), Lukic (n/a)

Aston Villa: Martinez (5), Cash (6), Lenglet (7), Torres (7), Moreno (6), McGinn (6), Tielemans (7), Luiz (7), Ramsey (7), Bailey (7), Watkins (8).

Subs: Diaby (n/a), Digne (n/a), Iroegbunam (n/a)

Player of the match: Ollie Watkins

Midway through the half, Tim Ream thought he had given Fulham the lead when he controlled the ball and finished like a seasoned striker, but a VAR review confirmed an offside in the build-up and denied him a first goal since September.

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From the attack that followed, Villa took the lead. Jacob Ramsey's touch ricocheted off Willian, allowing him to find Watkins, who turned away from Issa Diop and fired a clinical finish into the bottom left corner.

Team news

  • Marco Silva named the same starting line-up as he did for Fulham's 3-1 win over Bournemouth last time out.
  • Alex Iwobi and Calvin Bassey returned from AFCON duty with Nigeria earlier in the week and were both named on the bench.
  • For Villa, there were two changes following the defeat to Manchester United.
  • Pau Torres replaced the injured Diego Carlos for his first appearance since December 30, with Youri Tielemans in for Boubacar Kamara, who will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury.

Only the crossbar prevented Leon Bailey from doubling the visitors' lead in style soon after - and VAR came to the Cottagers' rescue just before the break, confirming the decision to chalk off Alex Moreno's header after the Spaniard strayed marginally offside.

Fulham lack of creativity was highlighted after the break - and soon punished, too. On 56 minutes, Tielemans played a sumptuous ball through to Watkins, who smashed home with aplomb after losing his man, taking his tally for the season to 18 in all competitions.

Did you know?

In taking charge of this match, Lewis Smith, 30, became the youngest referee to take charge of a Premier League fixture since Michael Oliver did so for Birmingham vs Blackburn in August 2010, when he was 25.

The hosts did find a way back in, when Muniz finished well at the near post after Antonee Robinson's square ball following a tireless run down the left caused a breakdown in communications among the Villa defence.

Fulham had their tails up towards the end, and might have earned a priceless equaliser had Emi Martinez not come from his line to keep out a shot from the lightning quick Adama Traore to preserve the three points for Villa, who are right where they want to be.

Silva: Not much between the teams, but we were too soft

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Fulham boss rues his side's 'sloppiness' against Aston Villa, as they were defeated 2-1 at Craven Cottage.

Fulham head coach Marco Silva:

"We knew how we should play to get a good result against Villa and, how we conceded the goals, we were too soft. Against these types of sides in the Premier League, against these types of strikers and forward players, we have to be much stronger and we weren't, unfortunately for us.

"Overall in the game, the looking, the fighting, the desire and believing until the end, I didn't see too many differences between both teams, to be honest.

"I didn't see Villa on us most of the time, I saw a really balanced game. After it was 2-1, it lifted our confidence and we had chances to equalise the game - clear chances to equalise the game. In the second half, Villa had nothing apart from the goal.

"Unfortunately we didn't score the chances we got and we were too soft with the goals we conceded. Even so, the players fought until the end. The belief was there, the attitude and the commitment was there as well.

"Football is to be solid as well, to keep the composure at the back in some moments. We conceded, unfortunately, and we were punished by that."

Emery: Great to bounce back after Man Utd loss

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Unai Emery admits it was 'fantastic' to get back winning after they defeated Fulham 2-1 with the help of an Ollie Watkins brace.

Aston Villa head coach Unai Emery:

"After our defeat in the last match at home in the Premier League against Manchester United, it was an important week to prepare for this game, staying very focused and trying to come back a good result and good feelings.

"I think it was fantastic how the players worked, how they were focused on the match and trying to impose our position on the pitch. We did some fantastic work and some players are showing their qualities in different moments.

"As a team, as a squad, I am very proud of our work. With some players being injured, some players will play in different positions to be versatile for the team. It's fantastic because I think this commitment is very important."

Watkins continues to stake claim for place in Southgate's Euro squad

Ollie Watkins celebrates after giving Aston Villa the lead at Fulham

Sky Sports' Dan Long:

While England fans lick their lips at the prospect of the Three Lions' chances at this summer's Euros, given how many players are hitting top form, Gareth Southgate must have a perpetual headache.

Harry Kane still can't stop scoring for Bayern Munich, Ivan Toney is back from his ban and firing for Brentford, while Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden are just going from strength to strength.

Ollie Watkins has not had too many chances to show what he's capable of on the international stage. He has earned nine caps since his debut in March 2021, but only started three times and played for more than an hour just twice.

He was left out of the Euro 2020 squad and the World Cup 2022 squad, too - but there's no doubt it's time to start looking at him for this summer's squad.

Against Fulham at Craven Cottage, it was his finishing masterclass that helped Aston Villa to their second Premier League win of 2024 and helped them take control of the intriguing battle to reach the top four. Another hat-trick escaped him on this occasion, but his double took him to 18 goals - his best return in four seasons in a Villa shirt.

Granted, he will not be the main man. But the opportunity to take an in-form player, capable of playing as a No 9, but also out wide, to Germany should be one Southgate does not pass up.

Villa on the march - Opta stats

  • In his first 50 Premier League games in charge of Aston Villa, Unai Emery has accrued 30 wins and 98 points (D8 L12), five more victories and nine more points than any other Villa manager in that milestone game in the competition.
  • Only Dwight Yorke in 1995-96 has registered more goal involvements in a Premier League season for Aston Villa (27) than Ollie Watkins in 2023-24 (23, 13 goals, 10 assists).
  • Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins has registered 23 goal involvements in the Premier league this season (13 goals, 10 assists in 25 games), with only Mo Salah managing more (24). It's also Watkins' best-ever haul in the top-flight in a season, eclipsing 21 last season (in 37 games).

What's next?

Both teams are back in Premier League action at 3pm on Saturday February 24.

Fulham travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United, while Aston Villa host Nottingham Forest at Villa Park.

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