For match photos, scroll to PHOTOSTREAM above left; for match stats, click on the stats tab. Manager reactions and press conferences to follow.
Rene Meulensteen claimed his first win as Fulham manager to end Aston Villa's five-match unbeaten run with a 2-0 victory at Craven Cottage.
Meulensteen had witnessed Fulham throw away a lead in their 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in his first game in charge in midweek. But the hosts never looked in danger of succumbing to another comeback in what was a comfortable win over Paul Lambert's men on Sunday.
Steve Sidwell scored midway through the first half to give Fulham the lead, which was extended nine minutes later when Dimitar Berbatov scored just his second Barclays Premier League goal of the season from the penalty spot.
Both sides created opportunities in an exciting contest, but it was Fulham who were full value for a triumph that ends a run of six Barclays Premier League games without a win.
On-loan striker Darren Bent missed out for Fulham as he was prevented from playing against his parent club, while Sidwell came in for Pajtim Kasami in midfield.
Christian Benteke returned to the Villa team as one of three changes made by Lambert, with Chris Herd and Andreas Weimann also named in the starting XI.
Fulham made the better start to proceedings and only the fingertips of Brad Guzan prevented them from taking the lead – the Villa goalkeeper showcasing excellent reflexes to keep out Berbatov's header from Alexander Kacaniklic's corner.
Villa were a danger on the counter-attack and Benteke spurned their first chance as he nodded wide from Gabriel Agbonlahor's delivery. The Belgian striker proved to be Villa's greatest attacking threat as he was denied by a good save from Maarten Stekelenburg following another good move from the visitors.
Lambert's men were almost made to pay for Benteke's profligacy, but the awareness of Nathan Baker kept them on level terms, the defender clearing Kacaniklic's goal-bound effort.
However, after 21 minutes Meulensteen's side did find the breakthrough when Sidwell cleverly hooked the ball over Guzan and into the bottom corner following good work from Ashkan Dejagah and Giorgios Karagounis.
And just before the half-hour mark the hosts' lead was doubled, Berbatov coolly converting from 12 yards after Kacaniklic had latched on to his ball over the top only to collide with Leandro Bacuna, with referee Mike Dean pointing to the spot.
Fabian Delph and Berbatov both went close in what was an open first half, but it was Guzan who continued to be the busier of the two goalkeepers, as he produced a fine save to deny Philippe Senderos seven minutes into the second period.
Villa struggled defensively throughout the game and they might have fallen further behind when John-Arne Riise headed against the post from Karagounis' cross after 65 minutes.
Riise provided Villa with another scare with a fierce long-range drive in the closing stages before the visitors were denied strong late shouts for a penalty when Agbonlahor went down, encapsulating their lack of fortune on a frustrating day for the West Midlands club.
Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen: "I couldn't be more delighted and the players should be delighted with themselves. We were quality going forward in an attacking sense. It's a massive boost. Although we lost, we got the feelgood factor back against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday and it was about backing that up with three points today. The fans can see we’re back on track.
"It's so tight in the league - every performance in every game is important and that's how we need to approach it."
"I thought we were excellent on Wednesday. The energy was good, we just had to make sure we didn't get down and built on it and we did that today. I've trained how I've always trained and it’s about the players responding to it. One of my biggest qualities lies on the training pitch."
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "I don't think we played as well as what we have been. We lost three to injury. But that's football and I don't want to make that as an excuse.
"I couldn't fault the lads for the way they tried to get themselves back into it. But I don't think we got going. I can't fault the lads though because the effort was there.
"We had a really tough game on Wednesday. But we pick ourselves up and go again. But as a team we were short. We never got going."
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|21 Dec 2013||v Man City (H)|
|26 Dec 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|28 Dec 2013||v Hull (A)|
|01 Jan 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|11 Jan 2014||v Sunderland (H)|