More defensive alarm bells ring for Fulham as Villa find it a breeze at the Cottage
By Yann Tear at Craven Cottage
Fulham 0 Aston Villa 3
Fulham endured another miserable evening as defensive frailties were once again cruelly exposed.
They were 2-0 down after 15 minutes and never looked like rescuing a lost cause, making it three straight defeats and 10 goals conceded from their opening three league matches.
A back three containing Denis Odoi and Tim Ream – two of the players who featured in the relegation horror show of two seasons ago – looked all at sea as Villa sliced through them at will. Michael Hector also looked woefully off the pace at times.
The Whites were on the back foot virtually from the word go, falling behind all too easily after just four minutes. A good ball from John McGinn picked out Jack Grealish in the inside right channel and the visitors’ star man, virtually unopposed, tucked the ball past Alphonse Areola.
And on 15 minutes, a dart into the penalty area by Grealish led to the second for Conor Hourihane – McGinn's lay-off creating all the space required.
A stretching Ollie Watkins was within inches of turning a low cross from Trezeguet into the net as Villa threatened more damage and the former Brentford striker missed with a header he should have put away just before the break after being found by Hourihane from the right.
A way back looked like it would have to come from Aleksandar Mitrovic and three times he got his head to crosses from home debutant Kenny Tete and fellow wing back Joe Bryan.
But this was an early evening assignment which refused to get easier – Tete being forced off with a calf strain just before half time. The Dutchman had made a decent start too.
Three first-half bookings also underlined the stress the home side was under and two more would follow in the second half.
Fulham’s defending looked no less ponderous three minutes into the second half when Hourihane swung in a free-kick from the left – awarded after Denis Odoi became the fourth Whites player in the book. No one was anywhere near Tyrone Mings, who touched the ball past an unprotected Areola.
The torture continued when a VAR-prompt persuaded referee Stuart Attwell to rule out a consolation goal for Bobby Reid – who stabbed in after Abou Kamara’s shot had been spilled by keeper Emiliano Martinez.
Mitrovic was the culprit then for an off-the-ball challenge and the big Serbian endured more frustration when he headed a Tom Cairney cross wide when well placed.
Apart from a Bryan shot which was tipped onto the bar in the dying embers of the game, there was little else to warm the cockles for Fulham fans watching from behind their sofas at home.
Scott Parker will be grateful a Grealish volley drifted just wide and that his side were spared further punishment, but there is much to contemplate about these worrying defensive shortcomings, which seem to be duplicating the nightmare of two seasons ago.
Fulham: Areola – Odoi, Hector (Le Marchand 58), Ream – Tete (Kamara 39), Anguissa, Decordova-Reid (Kebano 78), Cairney, Cavaleiro – Mitrovic. Subs not used: Knockaert, Rodak, Onomah, Robinson