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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Craven Cottage

Fulham undone by Watkins double as high-flying Aston Villa continue to pursue top four

Fulham (0) 1 Muniz 63

Aston Villa (1) 2 Watkins 23, 56

A goal in each half from Ollie Watkins was just enough to see off Fulham, furthering the visitors' credentials as serious candidates for a top-four finish.

The Whites had a poor first half, but the introduction of Alex Iwobi at the break injected a little more devil in their play, as did the arrival of Harry Wilson.

Rodrigo Muniz pulled a goal back to ensure a close finish but the Whites could not quite get the second goal their improved tempo arguably merited.

Fulham were already a goal down to a Watkins opener when they were hit by a sucker-punch when Watkins raced clear from Youri Tielmans pass through the middle and finished with that familiar dead-eyed calm past an exposed Bernd Leno.

Those goals coming from an ex-Bee will have stung home fans but others have had to endure the Watkins cutting edge in this part of the world. It was his seventh goal in the last seven games against London sides in the capital.

Fulham began well enough, even finding the net through Tim Ream, of all people, before a linesman's flag intervened, but it was Villa who stole a march.

It was a messy, avoidable goal from the Whites' point of view, with Jacob Ramsey quickest to a loose ball and after shrugging off Willian, he teed up Watkins for a simple finish.

Villa had given few real clues about how they come to be in contention for the top four this season up to then but the organisation and individual talents are obvious.

Leon Bailey clipped the Fulham crossbar in the visitors' next big raid and Unai Emery's team started to look the part a bit more.

Alex Moreno almost doubled the lead but his far-post header was ruled out for a marginal offside - the ball having come to the defender via a flicked header from the dangerous Watkins. And it needed a good smother from Leno to deny Tielemans just before the interval.

Muniz badly wanted to build on his two goals against Bournemouth last time around and he flashed one shot over the bar and sent a header just wide before the break.

And he got his reward for another afternoon of endeavour when he nipped in ahead of Clement Lenglet to steer an Antonee Robinson cross past Emiliano Martinez at the near post.

It set up a thrilling final half hour, in which Wilson fired a volley just wide and Martinez foiled sub Adama Traore in a one v one after Muniz had threaded a pass through the eye of a needle between two defenders.

It was an altogether better showing but the Whites could not quite get back on level terms. Home fans vented frustration at ref Lewis Smith at the end, feeling their team got the worst of the 50-50 decisions.

But in truth Traore might have been red carded for a couple of fouls and Palhinha was arguably lucky to only receive a yellow for another bad foul.

As it was, the Portuguese now has 10 bookings and faces a two-game suspension Fulham could do without, with Man United away next week.

Whites: (4-2-3-1) Leno - Castagne, Diop, Ream (Bassey 75), Robinson - Joao Palhinha (Lukic 89), Cairney - De Cordova-Reid (Wilson 64), Pereira (Traore 75), Willian (Iwobi h/t) - Muniz

Villa: (4-2-3-1) Martinez - Cash, Lenglet, Torres, Moreno (Digne 81) - McGinn, Douglas Luiz - Bailey (Diaby 81), Tielemans (Iroegbunam 90+4), Ramsey - Watkins

Attendance: 24,401


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