It was an embarrassing night beside the Thames. Douglas Luiz left the team down with a careless red card, which facilitated Marco Silva’s rampaging Fulham. Tyrone Mings scored an unfortunate own goal, the defense was dreadful, and there was no shortage of dissent from the traveling Aston Villa fans, who weren’t afraid to express their desire for Steven Gerrard to be fired.
The romantic interpretation, of course, would be to focus on how Gerrard was always willing to fight until the very end while he was tearing up the middle for Liverpool. But management is a harder, more solitary profession. It’s difficult to feel sorry for Gerrard.
After yet another poor performance from Villa, who were fortunate that it only ended 3-0, he entered the press room and declared he was not a quitter. A 41-word statement announcing Gerrard’s departure after less than a year in the position was released by the club after they forced him to speak.
It was a harsh way to leave. But it has been on the way. Villa is in a tough spot and is only one goal out of the bottom three. The supporters who traveled to Craven Cottage captured the gloomy atmosphere by jeering their manager at halftime and after the final whistle. Based on their performance here, the players have also given up on Gerrard, who was powerless to make his team match Fulham’s work rate, organization, and technical prowess.
Gerrard felt embarrassed by it. The first accusation is that he made a tactical error by starting Jan Bednarek instead of Ezri Konsa at right back in an attempt to counter Aleksandar Mitrovic’s aerial threat, which allowed Willian to take advantage of Konsa’s discomfort.
The second is that he dispatched a squad without a clear strategy. Every aspect of Villa’s performance was aimless, and perhaps the frustration got to Luiz, who was sent for headbutting Mitrovic while Fulham only led by one goal.
Not that anything should be detracted from Fulham’s outstanding performance. The triumph elevated them to ninth place and served as compensation for the work Silva has done since winning the Championship the previous year. The manager of Fulham hailed the victory as “fully merited.” This season, we “finally got a clean sheet at home.”
While Silva complimented Andreas Pereira and Willian for their creative performances and praised Harrison Reed for a fantastic opening goal, Gerrard struck a somber figure as he came for his post-match press conference.
The 42-year-old had anticipated that Villa would build on their encouraging showing against Chelsea. He received a shambles in return. From the minute Willian and Antonee Robinson started working together on Konsa, it was clear that Villa lacked shape and that Gerrard’s choice to start Bednarek was a mistake.
Villa was brutalized by Fulham. Willian was denied twice by two superb stops from Emiliano Martnez. With three excellent long-range shots, Pereira, the No. 10 position’s master of deft agility and darting runs, came close to scoring. From the right back, Bobby Decordova-Reid attacked forward and found Mitrovic, who scored with a header.
Fulham was in command. The pressure eventually caught up to them as they threatened from set pieces, with Mings clearing a Mitrovic header off the line. In the 36th minute, Willian sent a corner from the left, and Martnez’s punch fell to Reed, who took the ball down and smashed a shot from 18 yards in.
Leno’s saves against Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings at least gave Villa some life, but they were not enough to appease the traveling crowd. There has to be a change. Since Gerrard’s defensive strategy had failed, the Bednarek experiment was abandoned after the break, allowing Konsa to retake his original position in the center.
However, it had little impact. Villa is a team full of letdowns. Nothing was provided on the right by Leon Bailey. Ings missed a headed opportunity. Since no one was keeping track of their runners, disorder quickly spread. Mings received a caution for fouling Willian, and before the game could resume, Michael Oliver went to the pitchside monitor to see a replay of Luiz punching Mitrovic.
For Gerrard, it was game over. Following Cash’s handling of Mitrovic’s shot that resulted in a penalty, Fulham surged forward and quickly pulled away.
The season’s eighth goal for Mitrovic was not the final score. Neeskens Kebano sprinted past Cash with seven minutes remaining, and Mings buried his cross.