Walker shows what it takes to fill Neville's boots for England
Aston Villa 2 Fulham 2
Sunday 06 February 2011
The England management will have taken note of Kyle Walker here. Collecting the ball close to the halfway line, the Aston Villa right-back embarked on a run that took him beyond Steve Sidwell. Next came a 35-yard strikethat skidded beyond Mark Schwarzer. Not a bad way to score your first Premier League goal.
Gary who? In all seriousness, filling Mr Neville's boots should not be a pressure that is put on Walker at this stage, but there are promising signs. His goal put Villa 2-1 ahead, but Fulham came back for the second time to earn a point.
Villa had been frustrated within five minutes when they were denied a goal by a marginal offside decision. Stewart Downing had burst forward, cutting in menacingly from the right wing. His shot was pushed out by Schwarzer into the path of Darren Bent who put in the rebound but was adjudged to have been ahead of centre-back Aaron Hughes.
They made amends in the 13th minute with Downing creating the danger again. He delivered a cross to the back post that John Pantsil headed into his own goal after panicking as Gabriel Agbonlahor lurked behind him.
Fulham finally showed some attacking initiative when Damien Duff passed inside to Sidwell on the edge of the 18-yard box. The former Villa midfielder Sidwell struck the ball well and Brad Friedel spilled the shot before recovering to gather safely.
That was a rare opening for Fulham but Mark Hughes' men started finding more gaps as half-time approached. Duff's shot was blocked by Ciaran Clark in the 31st minute and Sidwell threatened soon afterwards but his low drive bobbled wide.
After the break Ashley Young was involved in some of Villa's best moves. His clever ball over the top gave Bent a chance to shoot but the striker mis-hit from 20 yards. The midfielder then supplied Walker who sent a cross to the back post but Bent could not jump high enough to meet it.
Sidwell tried his luck again from distance in the 51st minute and it led to Fulham's equaliser. His 25-yard shot was parried out by Friedel and Andy Johnson stooped low to head the ball in on the rebound from six yards.
Suddenly Villa were forced to show more urgency but Walker restored their lead within 20 minutes courtesy of that solo effort. Fulham levelled again in the 78th minute, Clint Dempsey scoring with a close-range header, from Danny Murphy's corner, after making a late run into the six-yard box that none of the Villa defenders picked up.
After that flurry of action, tempers frayed. Stiliyan Petrov, having already been booked, got into a tangle with Dempsey. Heated words were exchanged and immediately Petrov was taken off.
"Our resilience was in evidence again," Hughes said. "They really took the game to Villa but wanted something out of the game."
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: Downing
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