An instant impact from American midfielder Indiana Vassilev separated Aston Villa and Fulham’s U23 sides last night.
Words: Simon Lines | @simonlines
XI: Kalinic, Walker, Hause, Chester (Revan, 71′), Rowe, Birch, Brunt, Clarke, Tait (Odutayo, 59′), Archer, Kodjia (Vassilev, 80′)
On a chilly autumn night at Villa Park, the Under 23 side ran out eventual 1-0 winners against Fulham in their Premier League 2 clash.
Aston Villa started the game with a strong line-up, consisting of Lovre Kalinic, James Chester, Kortney Hause and Jonathan Kodjia which saw all four gain valuable minutes under the watchful eye of Dean Smith and his coaching team.
Fulham were the brighter of the two sides early on and were unfortunate with a penalty appeal as De La Torre went over in the box after a clumsy challenge from Aston Villa’s Rowe. A few moments later, and Fulham had created the first real opportunity of the game as Sonny Hilton’s angled pop-shot flew just over the bar.
The first half was a quiet one for Villa, who were unable to register their first shot on goal until the 30th minute – whilst Fulham continued to grow into the game as Francois, from a good angle, fired a free-kick narrowly wide.
Aston Villa started the second half considerably brighter, and Fulham goalkeeper Ashby-Hammond was called upon to punch away some dangerous crosses into the box, as well as collecting Cameron Archer’s through ball to Jonathan Kodjia relatively easily.
De La Torre’s trickery and balance continued to cause issues for Kortney Hause and James Chester throughout the game, but his best chance for Fulham was saved well by Lovre Kalinic.
Lewis Brunt had one of the best Villa opportunities just before ten minutes from time, as good work from Cameron Archer on the right allowed the ball to find it’s way to Brunt, who scuffed his shot over the bar.
Jonathan Kodjia was replaced by Indiana Vassilev with around ten minutes to go, and the American made an instant impact as he glanced home Jack Clarke’s cross after just a few minutes on the pitch.
In the final minute Fulham almost had a chance to equalise, but Jayden Harris’ volley was pushed over well by Kalinic.
Overall, it was a solid three points for Aston Villa U23’s on an evening when chances are hard to come by. James Chester and Kortney Hause will be pleased with their evenings work, keeping a clean sheet in the process.
Jonathan Kodjia had a quiet game but Dean Smith will be pleased that the Ivorian striker has some minutes under his belt after his first appearance since his late cameo against Tottenham Hotspur on the first day of the season.
The victory moves Aston Villa five points clear of Fulham, and into the top six.