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Aston Villa missed the chance to pull five points clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone as Fabian Delph’s own goal proved costly with Fulham.
Paul Lambert’s side had been unlucky not to have led at the break but Charles N’Zogbia finally made the breakthrough before the hour at Villa Park. However, Delph’s own goal, combined with a missed opportunity in the 73rd minute, allowed Fulham to go home with a point and denied Villa the chance to move further away from the bottom three.
Villa headed into the match with three wins in their past four matches to leave them two points clear of the drop zone, with rivals Sunderland and Wigan not in action. They were, though, without in-form forward Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was absent and was replaced by N’Zogbia.
Fulham suffered a blow in the 10th minute when Damien Duff was forced off with a leg injury and replaced by Stanislav Manolev in an otherwise quiet opening period. Ashley Westwood’s 24th-minute corner caused Fulham a moment of anxiety before Christian Benteke side-footed over from towards just outside the six-yard box when he should have added to his overall tally of 19 goals from Andreas Weimann’s ball.
In the 31st minute Benteke and N’Zogbia played a series of one-two passes with each other before the former found his colleague with a delicate cross on the left, which N’Zogbia tried to clip home, only for Mark Schwarzer to save impressively.
The Cottagers’ creative players were struggling, although Dimitar Berbatov did force two half-chances. N’Zogbia saw a left-foot shot straight at Schwarzer parried over and Weimann sent a half-volley wide shortly before half-time.
Villa kept up the pressure from the restart but were nearly punished on the counter in the 50th minute when Bryan Ruiz’s superb pass found Berbatov, only for the Bulgarian to bend his low shot onto the outside of the left-hand post.
Villa’s pressure finally told in the 55th minute. Matthew Lowton found Weimann in the box and though Brede Hangeland blocked the Austrian’s attempt, N’Zogbia had time to shift the ball on to his left foot and bend it into the left-hand corner.
The equaliser came in the 11 minutes later. Ruiz’s corner from the right could have been dealt with comfortably at the near post but Delph flicked the ball backwards with his head, leaving Brad Guzan rooted and Westwood unable to scramble it away before it crossed the line.
Fulham almost got a second when substitute Mladen Petric guided the impressive Ruiz’s teasing cross wide. Villa had a sublime chance in the 73rd minute when Delph blasted a loose ball at the back post high and wide with his left foot from Weimann’s teasing cross.
Darren Bent entered the fray in the 76th minute before Benteke smashed another effort off target after setting himself up well.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "We were great. We should have been a few goals up at half-time and their goalkeeper made some vital saves. I could not fault the lads for effort. [In terms of Fabian Delph's own goal] you can never fault anyone for trying to do the right things.
"The point keeps the momentum there. I played under a great manager once and he said if you can't win a game then don't lose it. You can sense in the stadium the fans are behind us."
Fulham manager Martin Jol: "They were the better team. In the first half, we were a bit hot and cold. The chances they had were created by us.
"If you look at the match, they had won three of four coming into the game, so I can live with a point. Our first priority was 40 points and we have achieved that."
|04 May 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|19 May 2013||v Wigan (A)|
|29 Apr 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|11 May 2013||v Chelsea (H)|
|22 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Swansea (A)|