Vassell completes Villa's revival

Fulham 1 Aston Villa 2
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Footballers' wives was back on our screens last night but there was more excitement here at Loftus Road in one episode of Premiership action than in a whole series of that ITV soap.

A goal inside the first minute and then some scintillating play leading to two goals for the visitors was capped off by a tempestuous second half.

With 15 minutes left, Fulham's Carlos Bocanegra was sent off for a horrendous, flying, two-footed challenge on the right-back Mark Delaney, lending moral weight to Villa's deserved victory.

"A disgusting tackle," the Villa manager, David O'Leary, called it, before adding: "I was angry but Chris Coleman [the Fulham manager] acknowledged it and the referee dealt with it. But I don't think the lad has broken his leg."

Villa played the best football of the night, despite going a goal down after 50 seconds to Luis Boa Morte's effort, but their third consecutive victory was overshadowed by the tackle on Delaney. The foul by Bocanegra so incensed the Villa manager that he stormed on to the pitch to remonstrate with the Fulham players and console his player, who was stretchered off.

Going down to 10 men made Fulham's task to find an equaliser even harder. Before the shock of the final minutes here in West London, it was Aston Villa who needed a revival having gone behind after Boa Morte beat Olof Mellberg to the ball and found the inside of Thomas Sorensen's far post. The goal served as the prompt for Villa.

Inspired by Lee Hendrie, playing in front of the England assistant manager, Tord Grip, who was probably in attendance to cast his eye over Sean Davis, the visitors wasted little time in drawing level.

Hendrie had fired one shot over before Thomas Hitzlsperger sent in a free-kick that found Juan Pablo Angel after 14 minutes. The Colombian's first shot was blocked but he tapped in the rebound for his 18th goal of a prolific season.

His strike partner Darius Vassell has found fewer goals this year but was still there to head home what turned out to be the winning goal after 32 minutes. But before Vassell's strike, at the near post from a Hitzlsperger corner, Villa were only denied by the brilliance of Edwin van der Sar.

First the Dutchman dived to his left to keep out a curling effort by Hendrie and then he went to his right to push away a shot from Nolberto Solano.

McBride hit the crossbar late on, and a deflected cross from Steed Malbranque was as close as Fulham came to drawing level.

Fulham (4-5-1): Van der Sar 5; Volz 4, Knight 4, Pearce 4, Bocanegra 2; Djetou 4 (Hayles 3, 70), Clark 4 (Petta 4, h-t), Davis 4, Malbranque 5, Boa Morte 6; McBride 3. Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Legwinski, Inamoto.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen 6; Delaney 5 (De la Cruz, 76), Mellberg 6, Johnsen 6, Samuel 6; Barry 6 (Whittingham, 80), Hendrie 7, Hitzlsperger 6, Solano 6; Angel 6, Vassell 6. Substitutes not used: Postma (gk), Crouch, Ridgewell.

Referee: B Knight (Kent) 6.

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