The rain teemed down for most people in B6 but all Aston Villa fans can see right now are clear blue skies.
Unai Emery’s free-scoring team equalled the club’s postwar record of winning at home for the 13th league game in a row, matching the run set by the European Cup-winning team across two seasons in 1983. Even as Antonee Robinson inadvertently played a role in all four goals to leave Fulham two places above the relegation zone, Villa moved to within two points of second place in the Premier League.
Villa’s goal from Robinson, along with goals from McGinn and Watkins, brought their total goals scored to 29, second only to Manchester City. This also ties their club record from 1998 for the most wins in a calendar year with 22. Next up at Villa Park? The Premier League champions on a Wednesday night next month.
If they are victorious, Villa will match their record for the most consecutive home wins from 1937. However, Emery is not overly enthusiastic about this, especially since Villa has other crucial games to play before then.
“I prefer not to dwell on our past actions, but I also don’t want to dwell too much on what lies ahead,” stated the Villa manager. “My focus is on living in the present and savoring each moment. I plan to discuss our analysis with the team next week and then recharge and prepare for our upcoming match against Tottenham at home. We also have matches against Legia Warsaw, City, and Arsenal here at home.”
“These upcoming matches will be incredible and present significant challenges for all involved. We are eagerly anticipating them.”
Fulham has been unassertive in away games while Villa has been energetic at home. Apart from their victory at Ipswich in the Carabao Cup, Marco Silva’s team has not been able to secure an away win in the league since the first day of the season against Everton.
Villa could not have hoped for more cooperative opponents. With a two-goal lead before halftime, it was clear that the Villa Park audience would rise to their feet and cheer the team as they left the field for a break.
“It was a disappointing afternoon for us,” stated Fulham manager Silva. “In the first half, we struggled with possession and were not effective. At halftime, we encouraged the team to be more creative with the ball. I believe we achieved that in the second half. The players showed determination until the very end, and although we improved in the second half, a game is at least 95 minutes long.”
VAR prompted the referee, Simon Hooper, to overturn the penalty he had given for Timothy Castagne’s handball in the seventh minute, but Aston Villa remained unfazed. Youri Tielemans, making his Premier League debut for Villa, created the first goal with a brilliant left-footed cross that evaded Moussa Diaby and Bernd Leno but was deflected in by Robinson.
Matty Cash’s last-minute tackle prevented Willian from making a clear break towards the goal during a rare Fulham attack just before the second goal. This tackle played a crucial role in the outcome of the game.
After Robinson cleared Lucas Digne’s high pass, McGinn was left with enough space to take a touch and get away from João Palhinha. He then scored his third goal in the last five games with his preferred left foot from the edge of the box.
After halftime, Fulham displayed a strong offensive presence and Raúl Jiménez’s shot hit the post. Willian then kicked the rebound over the goal as Villa took a more defensive approach.
Fulham’s improvement also contributed to Villa’s goal, ultimately sealing the game. After Watkins successfully cleared Willian’s corner with a header, there seemed to be no immediate danger as Robinson received the ball. Unfortunately, the struggling full-back slipped, allowing substitute Leon Bailey to sprint half the field and pass the ball to McGinn.
The captain of Villa effectively utilizes his large stature, using his backside as a pivot to remove two defenders and pass the ball to Bailey on the outside. Bailey then crosses the ball for Watkins, who easily scores his 11th goal of the season with a sidefoot shot.
Fulham received a small comfort when Jiménez scored his first goal in the Premier League after 34 games and 20 months. This came after Wilson sent a diagonal pass over the Villa midfield to Robinson, who then passed to the former Wolves striker.
Carlos Vinícius’ goal was nullified due to an offside call, while Watkins reacted by covering his head with his shirt after missing a header from four yards out. This occurred after Palhinha unintentionally deflected McGinn’s cross onto the crossbar. However, Villa had already secured their victory, although not without struggle.