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?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea