x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Agbonlahor beauty after Pantsil sets Villa off to a rapid start

Aston Villa put the disappointment of their midweek Europa League exit behind them with a comfortable victory at home to Fulham.

BIRMINGHAM // Aston Villa put the disappointment of their midweek Europa League exit behind them with a comfortable victory at home to Fulham. Martin O'Neill's men lost on away goals to Rapid Vienna on Thursday, but they have now won consecutive Premier League games, with yesterday's victory following their shock 3-1 away triumph at Liverpool. An own-goal from Fulham's John Pantsil and Gabriel Agbonlahor's first strike of the season secured the three points and O'Neill will be pleased with the way his team have bounced back from an opening day home defeat against Wigan.

Villa needed only three minutes to break the deadlock, but they were given a helping hand by their former defender Aaron Hughes and Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer in setting up the goal. Hughes sent a careless back-pass towards Schwarzer who could only slice the ball out of play for a corner. Ashley Young's centre was flicked on by Carlos Cuellar and Cottagers defender John Pantsil could only head the ball into his own net at the near post when under pressure from Agbonlahor.

Fulham were knocked out of their stride by this early setback and Steve Sidwell was only just too high with a curling effort after Agbonlahor had turned a dangerous ball from Nicky Shorey into his path. Villa were playing with the kind of flair and confidence they had demonstrated during their impressive win at Liverpool in their last league outing on Monday. Young and James Milner were constantly swapping from the right and left flanks to try and unlock the Fulham back-four. Villa central defender Ciaran Clark missed a good chance to mark his debut with a goal after 24 minutes.

The England Under 19 international was unmarked when he got on the end of a Young corner but sent his header over the bar. Villa dominated the opening 45 minutes with the Cottagers looking leg weary after their Europa League exertions in Russia on Thursday. There was a cagey opening to the second period although a fierce shot from Erik Nevland was blocked by Clark full in the face. But after 59 minutes Villa gave themselves a two-goal cushion with Agbonlahor's first goal of the campaign. Milner played the ball inside to the England striker who bore down on the Fulham box before beating Schwarzer with a fierce 20-yard drive.

* PA Sport