Fulham 2 Aston Villa 0: Dimitar Berbatov has full backing from Rene Meulensteen despite exit rumours

Berbatov's agent has claimed that the Bulgarian wants to leave in January but he remained calm to convert a penalty during crucial win for Cottagers

Dimitar Berbatov has Rene Meulensteen's full trust to spearhead Fulham's drive for Barclays Premier League survival.

New boss Meulensteen hailed striker Berbatov, who is agitating for a move away from Craven Cottage in the January window, for having a hand in both goals in Fulham's 2-0 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday.

Berbatov teed up Steve Sidwell for his third goal of the campaign, making the midfielder Fulham's top scorer in the Premier League.

Then the Bulgarian forward coolly rolled a penalty past Brad Guzan as Fulham took control well before half-time.

Meulensteen said he never worries about Berbatov's languid approach to penalty-taking, or any other aspect of the 32-year-old's play.

He said: "You have to stay calm when he does that.

"I never thought for a second about it in that respect, because it's very clear: he's the man that takes the penalties, he takes the responsibility, and he's put it away.

"I trust all my players."

Villa manager Paul Lambert lamented an unsuccessful penalty appeal late in the second half, when Aaron Hughes challenged Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Meulensteen admitted he would have been annoyed to see a Fulham appeal rejected in similar circumstances.

He said: "Football, one, is about decisions, and two, about opinions.

"We got given one with Alex (Kacaniklic) brought down in the box that we took.

"If we had a similar incident to the one Aston Villa had we would have been disappointed if we wouldn't have got it.

"I do think looking at it that Aaron definitely wanted to play the ball, but obviously it's (referee) Mike Dean's decision and he didn't give it."

Villa boss Lambert was disappointed to see his side's five-game unbeaten streak come to an abrupt end.

But he said he could not fault his players for their effort.

He said: "We looked tired: it looked a tired performance after the other night.

"But I couldn't fault my players for effort.

"We just never got going, but the decisions that came up helped them a wee bit.

"We have been excellent to go five games unbeaten in this league.

"Going to Southampton and winning was a massive result for us.

"But sometimes you've got to hold your hands up, and then move on."

PA

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