Just when Aston Villa remembered how to score they showed they have forgotten how to win. The visitors arrived at Craven Cottage without three first-team forwards but Marc Albrighton's goal ended a scoring drought of 385 minutes – more than four games' worth.
Unfortunately for Gérard Houllier, especially given that Villa created many more chances than their hosts, one bad break means their winless run stretches back five games to the end of September. With the match four minutes into stoppage time, Brede Hangeland got a header on Danny Murphy's free-kick that brushed off Stephen Warnock's chest and got past Brad Friedel.
Unfortunately for Houllier as well, he has also now got himself in an argument with John Carew. The Norway forward is injured but in an interview accused Houllier of "lacking respect" for him. Houllier hit back, calling the former Valencia player "stupid", accusing him of "living in the past", a reference to fans singing Carew's name for goals he scored in past seasons but not in the current campaign. After a pointed reference to Carew's dubious fitness record, Houllier did say the row would not stop him picking the player when he is fit.
Having reached 94 minutes with only Albrighton's goal to show for it, Villa need Carew, as well as Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor fit again. One of that triumvirate would almost certainly have got the second that would have put paid to Fulham.
Yet any of them would have been impressed with the way Albrighton finished, trapping Barry Bannan's cross-field pass and curling his shot inside the far post. Sadly for Albrighton he also conceded the free-kick that led to Fulham's goal.
Villa had the game's outstanding players: Stewart Downing and the midfield pair of Bannan and Ciaran Clark. Not far behind was Mark Schwarzer. The Fulham goalkeeper denied Downing after only three minutes but his most important intervention came in the 89th. A move started by Stephen Ireland, who has also felt Houllier's wrath, led to Downing crossing for Ashley Young. His header was not powerful but Schwarzer still had to scramble across to push it away. At the time it seemed inconsequential but that was before Albrighton's late mistake that left Houllier so rueful. "I'm disappointed with the result," he said, "but have told the players their performance was outstanding."
Referee: Peter Watson
Man of the match: Bannan
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content