Aston Villa 1 Fulham 1 match report: Fabian Delph blunder sees Villa miss their chance


villa park

Aston Villa fans look set to endure nervy afternoons like this right to the end of the season after a home draw with Fulham that has to count as a missed opportunity in their effort to clamber clear of relegation trouble. Villa went into the match knowing victory would take them five points clear of third-bottom Wigan Athletic, but despite taking the lead through Charles N'Zogbia, they had to settle for a point thanks to Fabian Delph's own goal.

It was a goal that set an unwanted club record of 60 conceded in a Premier League campaign and was an undoubted setback to Villa's survival hopes. Wigan have two games in hand and with Villa's next fixture at Manchester United on Monday week, the pressure could be right back on them by the time they host Sunderland on Monday 29 April.

Yet the home manager, Paul Lambert, preferred to focus on the positives. "Today we played really well and got a draw, and that point could be absolutely massive," he said, pointing to the "right cluster" of clubs that have been sucked into the relegation fight in recent weeks, including Stoke, now level on 34 points with Villa. "I am not too disappointed at all with the performance," Lambert added. "It wasn't that long ago that Fulham went to White Hart Lane and turned over a top side in Tottenham."

Villa had entered this game on a run of three wins from their last four league outings yet they took time to find their stride against an assured-looking Fulham side, for whom the forward pair of Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz stood out. The Londoners' measured approach contrasted with the high-energy football of Villa's youngsters typified by Andreas Weimann, who set up the first clear opening midway through the half, when crossing to Christian Benteke who steered the ball over from six yards.

Villa were missing the injured Gabriel Agbonlahor but his replacement, N'Zogbia, made an impact. On the half-hour he met Benteke's cross with a low drive that Mark Schwarzer palmed on to the near post. The Frenchman then flashed in a rising shot that Schwarzer tipped over.

According to Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, the visitors were "hot and cold" yet when they were hot, they found holes in Villa's defence. Berbatov had three chances, the best of them coming early in the second half when Ruiz threaded the ball through and Berbatov stepped inside Ashley Westwood but, with only Brad Guzan to beat, rolled the ball against the far post.

Villa responded by making the breakthrough at the other end as Brede Hangeland's weak clearance fell to N'Zogbia on the right of the penalty box. He stopped the ball with his right foot then with his left sent it curling inside the far corner.

A crucial victory looked within Villa's grasp but Delph's own goal 11 minutes later decided otherwise. Ruiz swung in a corner and the midfielder's unwitting back-header at the near post diverted the ball over Guzan. "He made an honest mistake," said Lambert.

The lively Delph and Benteke both spurned chances to win it for Villa, while Fulham substitute Mladen Petric failed to convert Ruiz's ball into the six-yard box.

The point Fulham gained secures top-flight football for next season – "I am a happy customer we have 40 points," said Jol, who hopes Villa survive too. "Hopefully for them with their philosophy, with all these youngsters, they will stay up," he said. "I think the future is theirs." But where that future will be remains to be seen.

Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridgeface-off in the final
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas