Premier League - Berbatov stars as Fulham beat woeful Villa

Premier League, Craven Cottage – Fulham 2 (Sidwell 21, Berbatov 30 pen) Aston Villa 0

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Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov celebrates with Giorgos Karagounis after scoring their second goal from the penalty spot (PA Sport)

Dimitar Berbatov starred as Fulham ended a run of six straight league defeats with a richly-deserved 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

Only a splendid save from Brad Guzan denied Fulham an early lead when the Villa stopper tipped Berbatov’s header onto the woodwork before a goalmouth scramble resulted in Alex Kacaniklic’s low effort being hacked off the line.

But the hosts continued to press for an opener and got their reward when Steve Sidwell outmuscled Leandro Bacuna before clipping the ball past Guzan from a tight angle.

And nine minutes later it was two: Leandro Bacuna was adjudged to have illegally bundled over Alex Kacaniklic inside the penalty area allowing Berbatov to casually stroke home from the spot.

Fulham continued to pile on the pressure after the restart with Philippe Senderos and John Arne Riise going close as the Cottagers moved level on points with 17th placed West Ham and handed Rene Meulensteen his first win as manager.

KEY MOMENTS

9’ - WHAT A SAVE: Berbatov rises the highest to meet a Fulham corner. His header looks destined for the top corner bad Brad Guzen leaps like a salmon to turn it onto the post.

18’ – GOALMOUTH SCRAMBLE: Suddenly Ashkan Dejagah breaks clear of the Villa defence. He's one-on-one with Guzan... Clark recovers to make a stunning challenge inside the area. Kacaniklic has a pop from the follow up but it's hacked off the line.

21’ – GOAL: Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa: The ball bounces off Berbatov inside the area and looks destined to cross the line for a goal-kick. But Sidwell is alive to the situation, charges after the loose ball and, from a tight angle, somehow scoops his foot around the ball and turns it past Guzan and into the goal.

30’ – PENALTY: Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa: Fulham race down the other end as Berbatov releases Kacaniklic. The Greek's first touch is pretty horrendous, allowing Leandro Bacuna to get back. The pair go shoulder to shoulder, the Fulham man hits the deck. PENALTY! Berbatov rolls it into the bottom right; Guzan goes the wrong way. Calm as you like.

63’ – POST: Guzan drifts off his line to claim Karagounis' cross but the stopper completly misjudges it. It runs through to Riise who plants his header against the post.

KEY STATS

Rene Meulensteen is the first Fulham manager since Chris Coleman (April 2003) to win one of his opening three PL matches. (Infostrada)

The penalty Aston Villa conceded in the first half was the 100th they have given away in the Premier League, making them the first team to reach this landmark (Spurs next with 89). (Infostrada)

TALKING POINT

Can Fulham push on from here? There are plenty of positives that Meulensteen can take from his opening games in charge. If they can nick a point from their next two games against Everton and Manchester City, then they will start to believe that they can beat the drop.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham): Actually looked interested and was even spotted running on a couple of occasions. His wonderful pass released Kacaniklic for the penalty which the Bulgarian then converted with his trademark swagger. Scott Parker a close second.

PLAYER RATINGS

Fulham: Stekelenburg 6, Riether 6, Hughes 6, Senderos 7, Riise 7, Parker 7, Karagounis 7, Sidwell 7, Dejagah 6, Kacaniklic 7, Berbatov 8… Subs: Kasami 6, Duff 6.

Aston Villa: Guzan 5, Bacuna 4, Clark 6, Baker 6, Herd 5, El Ahmadi 4, Westwood 5, Delph 6, Agbonlahor 6, Benteke 6, Weimann 6… Subs: Lowton 6, Albrighton 6, Tonev 6.

THE MATCH IN A TWEET

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