Meulensteen: Berba showed spirit

Wandsworth Guardian: Dimitar Berbatov, centre, scored the second goal from the spot Dimitar Berbatov, centre, scored the second goal from the spot

Rene Meulensteen believes Dimitar Berbatov demonstrated his commitment to the Fulham cause with a sparkling performance in Sunday's 2-0 win over Aston Villa.

Berbatov was the lynchpin as Fulham ended a run of six straight league defeats, teeing up Steve Sidwell for a well-taken opener before coolly dispatching a penalty he had helped win.

The 32-year-old was equal parts focal point and playmaker as Fulham recorded a first win for new boss Meulensteen, who has replaced Martin Jol.

Berbatov's agent last week confirmed his client is "not happy" at Craven Cottage and will seek a move in the January transfer window.

Meulensteen hailed Berbatov's focus in leading the line despite being unsettled, although the former Manchester United coach refused to discuss his star forward's long-term future.

Meulensteen said: "I think the word is focus, anyone who has a good focus will know what the job is in hand, and you focus on the performance.

"He makes a difference. I thought he was excellent [in the 2-1 loss to Tottenham] on Wednesday as well, and today again you saw what he was capable of doing.

"I just had a good chat with him, he's not a stranger to me, we know what games we have coming up all the way to January, and he's fully committed to Fulham and the games we've got ahead of us.

"I'm just focusing on the games up until January.

"I couldn't be more delighted with his performance, it shows that he cares.

"The most important thing is that the players should be delighted with themselves."

Asked about Berbatov's likely prospects once the January transfer window opens, Meulensteen said: "I can't, couldn't, wouldn't and don't want to answer that, it's my decision to do that with the people who are relevant to discuss these things."

Dejected Villa boss Paul Lambert was left to rue slim pickings for his side, with striker Christian Benteke's goalless streak stretching to nine games.

Villa also surrendered the league's second-best form record - a run of five games without defeat - in lacklustre fashion.

But Lambert refused to take his players to task for their below-par performance, admitting his men looked "tired" in west London.

Frustrated not to receive a penalty for Aaron Hughes' challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor, Lambert confirmed he had aired his views with referee Mike Dean.

Lambert said: "I don't think we did enough to win the game.

"Where I'm disappointed is the penalty. I had just spoken to Mike Dean, my view differs from his. I don't know what anyone else thinks but I'll leave other people to talk about it.

"Gabby got a foot on it first, and it's moments like that that change the game.

"If you lose any game you're always disappointed, but you pick yourself up and go again."

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