[Editor’s Note] Every match, Liam - our young writer - selects a ‘man of the match’ - win, lose or draw.
A day to forget for Dean Smith’s side as Fulham progressed to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup after beating Aston Villa 2-1.
With the Villans fighting to maintain their Premier League status as well as preparing for their Carabao Cup Semi-Final, many fans discounted the FA Cup immediately — however, when speaking to the Press before Saturday’s game, Dean Smith was still respectful of English football’s oldest competition. “Our priority was always the Premier League. Two cup competitions this season and the club has a very proud history in both. It’s been an awful long time since we’ve won this one — 1957. The fans have wanted to see us win it a number of times since then. There are not many who’ve seen us win it in their lifetimes, so we’re going to go and be as competitive as we can be and as we have been in the Carabao Cup. Hopefully the quality of the squad can carry us through.” As kickoff approached, the Villa faithful began to fill the away end hoping that their long journey to Craven Cottage was rewarded with a victory. Could the boys in claret and blue secure a victory against the Cottagers or would Scott Parker’s side prevail over the away side’s weakened team?
An uneventful first half finished goalless with both teams unsuccessfully taking their chances with Anwar El Ghazi’s failing to open the scoring from close range in added time.
After a monotonous 45-minute display, Cottagers winger Anthony Knockaert exquisitely broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute as the Frenchman artfully curled the ball into the top left-hand corner. Villa equalised 9 minutes later with El Ghazi tapping the ball into the empty net before Fulham retook the lead through Harry Arter’s magnificent strike. The Irishman fantastically struck the ball into the top left hand corner prompting small sections of Villa fans to stare in amazement due to the accurate nature of the goal. The home side hung on to secure a 2-1 victory over the Villans.
A bad day at the office for the boys in claret and blue with many players missing out on stating a claim to their place in the first team after several poor performances during Saturday’s fixture. Despite the disappointing display, there was one man who oozed class and stopped Scott Parker’s side from extending their lead further and that man was my Man of the Match, James Chester.
After previously being out for a long period of time with an injury, Chester proved to be a welcomed addition to today’s team as he was regularly composed on the ball as well being tenacious when needed. Going forward, Chester could be a fantastic addition if Smith continues to play three centre backs due to the fact that Chester can contribute to attacks with his intricate passes as well as being firm defensively. The Warrington-born footballer portrayed his leadership qualities as well during the FA Cup fixture and no matter if he plays or not, Chester will continue to be influential in the changing room as Villa look to survive in the Premier League with a young squad.