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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
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

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific