An own-goal from Fabian Delph denied Aston Villa victory against Fulham at Villa Park as the side played out a 1-1 draw.
Charles N’Zogbia had given the home team the lead with a curling effort beyond Mark Schwarzer 10 minutes into the second-half but Delph diverted the ball into his own net in the 66th minute and Villa could not force a winner.
Villa moved three points clear of the drop zone after the draw, while Fulham reached the 40 point mark.
N'Zogbia came in for the injured Gabriel Agbonlahor as Paul Lambert made just one change from the Aston Villa side that beat Stoke City 3-1 last weekend. Nathan Baker continued in defence, with Ciaran Clark back on the bench after recovering from a shoulder problem.
Fulham manager Martin Jol made two changes from the side that lost to a last-gasp Papiss Cisse goal at Newcastle United. The Dutchman brought in Kieran Richardson and Urby Emanuelson down the left, with John Arne Riise and Stanislav Manolev dropping to the bench.
Both sides enjoyed periods of possession in the first-half, although quality service into the box was lacking at either end.
The first real chance of the game arrived in the 23rd minute when Andreas Weimann’s cross into the box was flicked on by Baker and landed at the feet of the in-form Christian Benteke, who had scored in four successive Premier League games heading into this clash.
But the Belgian striker belied his recent form by shooting awkwardly off target with just Schwarzer to beat.
Soon after N’Zogbia forced a terrific save from Schwarzer as the Australian dived to push the ball away at his near post following a cross from Benteke.
Fulham’s one opportunity of the first half was a tame effort from Dimitar Berbatov who shot wide of the near post after some excellent play from Emanuelson who beat Jordan Bowery with ease on the byline.
Schwarzer then had to be on his mettle to push over a rasping drive from N’Zogbia as Villa continued to look the more likely.
Within seconds of the restart Schwarzer was forced to palm away a low effort from Weimann, while at the other end Berbatov was inches away from giving Fulham the lead as he ran onto a Bryan Ruiz pass and saw his shot strike the outside of the post. Replays suggested he was in an offside position, but the linesman did not raise his flag.
Villa took a deserved lead on 55 minutes. Weimann's cross was only half cleared by Brede Hangeland and N'Zogbia made the Norwegian pay with a curling left-footed effort that gave Schwarzer no chance in the Fulham goal.
But within 11 minutes Fulham were level as Delph headed the ball into his own net at the near post when attempting to clear a corner from Ruiz. Ashley Westwood did his best to clear off the line, but could not get enough on the ball.
Substitute Mladen Petric wasted a presentable chance when diverting Ruiz’s cross wide, while at the other end Delph shot wildly over after a fine ball into the box from the lively Weimann.
Finally, Benteke should have done better than blast the ball into the side-netting late on as Villa failed to muster a winner, despite the 75th minute introduction of Darren Bent.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Nathan Baker (Aston Villa) – A couple of thunderous tackles from the youngster, including one on Stanislav Manolev in the 20th minute, characterised a strong performance alongside Ron Vlaar at the back.
ASTON VILLA: Guzan 6, Lowton 7, Vlaar 7, Baker 8, Bennett 6, Westwood 7, Delph 6, N’Zogbia 7, Weimann 7, Bowery 6, Benteke 6. Subs: Holman 6, Sylla 6, Bent N/A
FULHAM: Schwarzer 8, Riether 6, Hangeland 6, Senderos 6, Richardson 6, Karagounis 6, Duff N/A, Enoh 7, Emanuelson 6, Ruiz 7, Berbatov 7. Subs: Riise N/A, Petric 5, Manolev 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mark Schwarzer
- Nathan Baker