Premier League - Fulham hold Villa in thriller
Fulham came from behind twice to earn a 2-2 draw against Aston Villa in an entertaining Premier League clash at Villa Park.
John Pantsil’s third own-goal of the season gave Villa an early lead, which Andy Johnson cancelled out early in the second half.
Kyle Walker thought he had given Villa a win when he smashed a long-range drive past a culpable Mark Schwarzer but Clint Dempsey headed a late leveller that gave Fulham a deserved point.
The result leaves Mark Hughes’s side a point clear of Villa, who lie two places behind in 14th.
Villa took the lead when Pantsil, whose spectacular slice handed Liverpool a 1-0 victory two weeks ago, headed Stewart Downing’s cross past Schwarzer as he arched to get the ball away from Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was unmarked at the far post.
It was a necessary intervention for the unfortunate Pantsil, who was consoled by a sportsmanlike Agbonlahor immediately after the 13th-minute goal and later as they entered the dressing rooms for half-time.
Darren Bent had seen his simple finish questionably chalked off on six minutes - he appeared level when Downing’s shot was struck, but it was so quick to the rebound off Schwarzer that the raising of a flag was inevitable.
An even match ensued as Fulham played good possession football while Villa were dangerous on the break, although Ashley Young was particularly quiet and Bent largely isolated.
Fulham levelled when Johnson nodded home a 52nd-minute rebound after a stinging drive by former Villa midfielder Steve Sidwell was batted out by Brad Friedel, the ex-Birmingham striker the quickest to react with a clever diving header to silence the Villa Park boo-boys.
The visitors sensed a win and pressurised Villa but the home side drew blood next when full-back Walker rasped a low drive into the bottom left from all of 35 yards, Schwarzer at fault as he got down very late, seeming to think it was going wide.
But with 11 minutes left Fulham piled bodies forward and, from a Danny Murphy corner, Dempsey rose above Villa’s normally imperious defence to head powerfully into the right side of goal for a share of the spoils.