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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 23:05 GMT
Harley's hammer floors Villa
Luis Boa Morte wins Fulham a penalty under Joey Gudjonsson's challenge
Luis Boa Morte won Fulham's first-half penalty
Fulham 2-1 Aston Villa

A spectacular strike from defender Jon Harley gave Fulham maximum points for the first time in three Premiership matches with a valuable victory over Aston Villa.

Villa had looked in the mood to record a third successive win when Gareth Barry put them ahead inside three minutes.

But Fulham hit back through Steed Malbranque's penalty 11 minutes later, after Luis Boa Morte - the game's dominant influence - won a controversial spot-kick.

And an open game of chances at both ends was settled before half-time by Harley's long-range thunderbolt.

Key moments
3 mins: Barry puts Villa in front
14 mins: Malbranque's penalty pulls Fulham level
36 mins: Harley hammers Fulham ahead from 35 yards

Villa made the perfect start when England left-back candidate Barry was sent through by Dion Dublin to open the scoring with their first attack.

But the visitors were already finding Boa Morte a handful and Barry followed his goal with an eighth-minute booking for a crude foul on the former Arsenal man.

And when Fulham equalised with a controversial 14th-minute penalty, Boa Morte was again at the heart of the action.

The Portuguese forward beat Villa's stand-in right-back Rob Edwards and crumpled under Joey Gudjonsson's challenge to allow Malbranque to score from the spot.

Boa Morte was the difference. He had a great, great game

Fulham assistant boss Christian Damiano
The action flowed from end to end but Fulham - and Boa Morte in particular - continued to create the better chances.

Steve Marlet squandered two opportunities in as many minutes midway through the half, first heading and then shooting straight at Villa keeper Peter Enckelman.

And moments later Louis Saha headed Boa Morte's centre across goal when he looked set to score.

Villa celebrate Gareth Barry's opening goal
Barry (centre) gave Villa an early lead
Boa Morte's torment of Edwards finally saw the 20-year-old follow team-mate Gudjonsson into the book for a frustrated tug on the Fulham star's shirt as the hosts continued to press.

But when the Cottagers' second goal came, it was from the unlikely source of left-back Harley.

The former Chelsea man latched onto a dropping ball 35 yards from goal and hammered an unstoppable half-volley past a shocked Enckelman.

Villa responded with a half-time double substitution, replacing Edwards and Stefan Moore with Lee Hendrie and Ulises De la Cruz.

But the switch did little to quell the threat of Boa Morte, who almost sent Saha clear five minutes into the half.

Malbranque then fired over the bar before Villa began to threaten the Fulham goal once more.

Andy Melville was booked for a foul on Darius Vassell and the ensuing free-kick found its way to Dublin six yards out, only for his volley to hit keeper Maik Taylor and cannon clear of the danger zone.

We made a very good start but I've no complaints about the result

Villa boss Graham Taylor

Villa sent on Peter Crouch to play with three up front in the closing stages, but could not snatch the equaliser they craved.

A Crouch volley that flew wide from 18 yards was as close as they came and Fulham held out to put a healthy nine-point cushion between them and the relegation zone.


Fulham: Taylor, Finnan, Melville, Goma, Harley, Malbranque, Djetou, Sean Davis, Boa Morte (Goldbaek 83), Saha (Sava 88), Marlet (Knight 71).
Subs not used: Herrera, Inamoto.
Booked: Melville.

Aston Villa: Enckelman, Samuel, Mellberg, Johnsen, Barry, Gudjonsson, Edwards (Hendrie 46), Hitzlsperger (Crouch 67), Moore (De la Cruz 45), Dublin, Vassell.
Subs not used: Postma, Staunton.
Booked: Barry, Gudjonsson, Edwards.

Attendance: 17,092

Referee: S Dunn (Avon).

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BBC Five Live's Simon Mann
"Fulham have too much quality to be strugglers"
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