Going to Craven Cottage was always going to be difficult for Aston Villa. The job got even more difficult when Albert Adomah and Jack Grealish both missed out through injury — and, ultimately, it wasn’t Villa’s day, as Fulahm ran out 2-0 winners Saturday to bump the Claret and Blues back to third place in the table.
The first half was pretty quiet, as Villa took a pragmatic approach in the first 45 minutes, comfortable to sit behind the ball while Fulham had a lot of pointless possession; while the Cottagers had the ball, they didn’t create a clear-cut chance in a half where neither side put a shot on target.
Fulham are holders of the division’s second-best attack, though, and they showed that in a dominant second-half performance. Ryan Sessegnon scored his seventh goal in as many games to put the hosts ahead in the 52nd minute, and Villa’s response was disappointing — the Claret and Blues barely got a foothold back into the match, spending the next run of play largely on the back foot.
Villa played themselves out of the match in the 71st minute, when Sam Johnstone’s shocking distribution effectively put Steve Bruce’s men down 2-0. Full debutant Axel Tuanzebe had been fouled near Villa’s own corner flag, and Johnstone ventured out to take the resulting free kick. But he mishit it badly and it went straight to Fulham’s Floyd Ayité. With Johnstone well outside the box, all Ayité had to to was hit the target from just inside midfield, which he did comfortably, putting the Cottagers up 2-0 to put the match away.
Even down 2-0, the Claret and Blues still struggled to generate much going forward in the match’s dying embers. Scott Hogan had one half-chance, but that was really it.
To make Villa’s injury matters worse, Ahmed Elmohamady — who started on the right wing thanks to Adomah’s absence — was subbed off at halftime after picking up an injury in the 42nd minute. Josh Onomah came on and played on the left wing, and Villa’s attack barely mustered much in the second half down to just one true winger.
With Cardiff City’s 1-0 win over Middlesbrough, the Claret and Blues dropped to third in the table, two points off the second automatic promotion spot. Villa are nine points ahead of Preston North End, who sit seventh.