Defender Tyrone Mings scored a brilliant header from a set piece as Aston Villa beat Fulham 1-0 at Villa Park on Tuesday to lift them to fifth in the Premier League table, a step closer to ensuring European football next season.
Villa is on 54 points after 33 games, one ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and five behind fourth-placed Manchester United. Fulham, whose European dream was derailed by a run of four defeats in March and April, is ninth on 45 points.
Fulham suffered a blow when midfielder Willian was injured in the warm-up and was unable to play, with Manor Solomon taking his place.
The visitor might have had an early chance but the home side put them under tremendous pressure in the opening 15 minutes, and it had a good shout for a penalty turned down when Ollie Watkins appeared to be tripped in the box by Tosin Adarabioyo.
Fulham was forced into another change when Harry Wilson limped off after 17 minutes to make way for Bobby Decordova-Reid as things went from bad to worse.
Villa took the lead in the 21st minute when Mings met John McGinn’s corner at the near post with a superb glancing header that flashed across the goal and into the net for his first goal of the season.
Fulham found its feet in the second half but once again their attack failed to fire and, despite enjoying more possession, it did little to threaten Emiliano Martinez in the Villa goal.
Mings’s joy almost turned to misery in the 82nd minute when he put the ball into his own net, but Harrison Reed was found to have been offside in the build-up and the own goal was chalked off as Villa held on to win.
The home side is on a remarkable run since Unai Emery took over in November, and Tuesday’s win marked their fifth straight home victory without conceding a goal as their push for Europe continues.
“We will look and see where we are. We have been doing that all season, when we were at the bottom as well. It is nice to look at it now when we are a bit higher,” goalscorer Mings told BT Sport, admitting it was about time he got on the scoresheet.
“The manager was telling me if I don’t score he will drop me so I was just glad I got one tonight,” he said.
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