Comfortable win see Villa remain unbeaten.
Aston Villa’s great start to the season continued comfortably beating Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage. Whilst on paper it was a repeat of the 2018-19 Play-off final, the result was much different. A new-look Aston Villa went into the game full of confidence having won 3 games from 3. Dean Smith named an unchanged side to that who played against Sheffield United, leaving new signing Bertrand Traore on the bench.
Fulham initially started brightly, putting pressure on the wings and pressing Villa’s back line, who were trying to play out from the back. However, this only lasted 4 minutes, John McGinn picking up the ball and playing a superbly-weighted pass through to Jack Grealish, who’s half volley beat the onrushing Fulham keeper, bagging his first Premier League goal of the season.
Villa doubled their lead shortly after with intricate play between Watkins and Grealish. Grealish’s dash into the box eventually lead to McGinn setting up a comfortable finish from Connor Hourihane on 14 minutes. Villa continued to dominate the rest of the first half, Watkins looking lively and desperate to score his first Premier League goal.
The Watkins and Grealish partnership seemed to be growing further still throughout the match. From a Villa perspective, it was encouraging to see a striker picking up the ball from all across the forward line, often drifting out wide, and running at defenders. Watkins almost got his first goal of the season, running in from the left, beating Hector and smashing a shot wide.
As impressive as Aston Villa were, the first half was a tale of how poorly Fulham had been defending. This didn’t improve minutes into the second half when Tyrone Mings got on the end of a Hourihane freekick, extending Villa’s lead to 3-0 and putting the game out of sight at 47 minutes.
Perhaps the biggest positive to take away from the match was Villa’s first away clean sheet, something they didn’t manage for the whole of last season. In true Premier League fashion, this looked lost, but for a VAR decision in Villa’s favour. Emiliano Martinez will be thankful after fumbling a shot from Ivan Cavaleiro. Bobby Reid was on hand to turn it in only for it to be disallowed for a foul on Ezri Konsa by Alexander Mitrovic. Martinez later redeemed himself with a fantastic fingertip save from a Joe Bryan shot, just pushing it onto the crossbar.
Whilst the majority of Villa players gave a good account of themselves, perhaps the best performance was from John McGinn, who looked much like his pre-injury-self. As well as picking up two assists, McGinn was involved in a large percentage of Villa’s play. The most eye catching of it, being a Zidane-style turn to beat a Fulham player on the counter.
Another impressive performance came from right-back Matty Cash, who looks to be settling into the Premier League comfortably. Cash continuously put his body on the line, putting in some impressive tackles up and down the pitch and saving a potentially goal bound strike from Anguissa.
Villa were watched on from owner Nassef Sawiris, who will be pleased with what he saw and confident on his investments so far. Whilst tougher opposition waits next season in Champions Liverpool, Villa sit on 6 points at the minute, a milestone it took them 8 games to achieve last season.