Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa: Inspired Berbatov Hands Meulensteen Priceless Victory

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By Tony Mogan | December 9, 2013 2:39 AM EST

Rene Meulensteen has guided his Fulham side to their first Premier League win since the beginning of October after a priceless victory over Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

First half goals from Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov saw the Cottagers record a 2-0 victory over Paul Lambert's side with a performance laced with renewed vigour and intensity after weeks of despair that resulted in the dismissal of Martin Jol.

With managerial upheaval seemingly not a big enough distraction, the future of Dimitar Berbatov has also taken centre stage. After his agent revealed the former Manchester United man wanted a January move he was greeted to a chorus of boos midweek, but the striker was typically nonplussed as he provided an animated start to the contest and would have opened the scoring inside 15 minutes if it hadn't been for Brad Guzan leaping across his goal to palm away a terrific header from the Bulgarian.

A fixture that boasted a meagre four goals in their last four games began to bubble into action nicely, as Christian Benteke failed to test Maarten Skeletenberg with a meek header before both Ashkan Dejagah and Alex Kacanikilic were denied by Guzan and then Chambers on the line.

With the steel of Sidwell and Scott Parker reinforcing Fulham's renewed drive, the game's opener soon followed.  With space in midfield, Giorgos Karagounis played a neat ball through to Sidwell, who deftly lifted the ball over the onrushing Guzan and into the back of the net to give his side the lead over his former employers after 21 minutes.

Fulham's fluidity going forward had been the most impressive aspect of their play this afternoon with midweek goal scorer Ashkan Dejagah again impressing behind Berbatov.

With wind in their sails, the home side were soon at it again. A long ball sent up the pitch was met with a simply outrageous flick by Berbatov which flew straight into the path of Kacaniklic, before the Swede was felled by Bacuna in the box.

A soft decision, but Berbatov, with all the audacity and confidence he had shown moments earlier, rolled the ball into the back of the net as Fulham saw out a half where they could have easily scored more.

The second half may have lacked the moments of individual skill we saw in the first, but tenacious displays from Parker and Sidwell provided the foundation behind a succession of opportunities as the home side continued to pepper Guzan's goal.

Aston Villa may have had a late claim for a penalty when Aaron Hughes felled Gabby Agbonlahor in the box - which will have irked Lambert having seen Fulham awarded their soft penalty in the first half - before John Arne Riise struck the post with a header late on.

But a powerful performance from the Cottagers was enough to confirm Meulensteen's first win as Fulham manager, as his side climb to 18th ahead of the table ahead of Crystal Palace and Sunderland.  

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