Scott Parker’s Fulham didn’t pay much heed to the status of their FA Cup third round opponents, but took down the last year’s Championship playoff-winner Aston Villa after a good show at Craven Cottage. Somewhat struggling in the Premier League this season, Aston Villa came into the game as favorites, not only because of their remarkably stronger team – at least on paper – but also because of Fulham’s recent troubles in the Championship. While still fighting for the promotion playoff spot, the performances of the team have dwindled from the start of the season and eventually led to a loss against Reading at home in the previous round. Fulham set their sights on Aston Villa to retaliate that loss and to prove they’re still contenders for promotion and they duly delivered. A hard-fought 2-1 win might have not been the prettiest of victories, but definitely one of the tastier ones.
Taking down a Premier League side is always an accomplishment for a lower league club and Fulham made a strong point in their chase for instant promotion back to Premier League. Aston Villa didn’t come into the game with their established starters, but still had a decent starting eleven with the likes of James Chester, Bjorn Engels, Conor Hourihane, Anwar El-Ghazi and Ahmed Elmohamady getting a nod. Fulham rested a couple of key players as well, giving a chance for Anthony Knockaert and Harry Arter to get back to match fitness. After Fulham had dominated the first half but failing to create chances let alone score, it was only fitting that it was Knockaert who sent the home team ahead ten minutes into the second half. Aston Villa hit back only nine minutes later by Anwar El-Ghazi’s goal.
It was another fan favorite to provide the winning goal for the home team as Harry Arter returned from the injury, which had kept him sidelined for over two months. The Irishman came in for Kevin McDonald on the 72nd minute and already found the net two minutes after, scoring his first of the season and first in Fulham’s shirt. The home team held on to the lead and progressed to the FA Cup fourth round with 2-1 victory.
Fulham returns to Championship action on January 11th visiting Hull City. Fulham is fifth in the league, ten points behind the automatic promotion place and two points safe in the promotion playoffs zone.