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Aston Villa 1-1 Fulham Prem32 Daily Mail

last updated Monday 15th April 2013, 2:30 PM
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Mark Ryan at Daily Mail

Aston Villa (0) 1 Fulham (0) 1

If commitment to the cause dictated how afternoons unfold, Fabian Delph would have emerged the hero of Villa Park.

But an own goal and a glaring miss made him Villa's villain, even though his manager Paul Lambert leapt to his defence.

In an era when many sportsmen demand to be present when their babies are born, Delph had just vowed to buck the trend.

Interviewed in the match programme, the 23-year-old Yorkshireman insisted that the football show must go on.

He said: 'We have spoken about it and we know it's a possibility it could happen when one of the games is about to go on.

But this is a crucial part of the season and if I'm down to play in the games, I need to be playing.

[My girlfriend] Natalie is 100 per cent behind me.

' So imagine Delph's horror when he headed a Bryan Ruiz corner past Brad Guzan in the 66th minute, to cancel out a beautifully curled finish from Charles N'Zogbia.

Manager Lambert said: 'He made an honest mistake, he tried to head it away, which we asked him to do, and I thought his performance was excellent.

'All you can ask for is people being honest, and he was unlucky with that.

He had a chance at the other end, too, but he is playing ever so well after a run of injuries.

' The missed chance was rather more important than Lambert seemed to want to admit.

When the ball fell at Delph's feet, he blasted his finish high into the Holte End, where home fans howled in anguish.

The same fans had been in raptures when Fulham captain Brede Hangeland gifted N'Zogbia his opener with a woeful clearance 10 minutes after the break.

'Same as last week, bad clearances gave away the initiative,' complained Fulham boss Martin Jol.

'But overall I'm a happy customer, we have reached 40 points and the other results have gone in our favour.

' Lambert insisted that top-flight survival was also well within Villa's grasp; that this was a point gained rather than two wasted.

'This draw could be absolutely massive,' he said.

'We're pulling teams into us from above, and I'm not too disappointed.

' But Jol was not so confident on Villa's behalf.

'If they don't win games they will go down as the third team and they're a big club.

' Perhaps Jol was thinking of how Dimitar Berbatov could have had a hat-trick from the chances that came his way either side of half-time.

The closest he got was to graze the outside of a Villa post soon after the break.

And while Villa were still coming to terms with Delph's own goal, Fulham substitute Mladen Petric nipped into what should have been an ideal position to steal the winner.

It would be wrong to blame Delph alone, because Christian Benteke was not at the races either.

He featured in one magnificent move, directing a swift cross to N'Zogbia, who looked for all the world to have beaten Mark Schwarzer but the Australian flung out an arm to turn the ball round his right-hand post.

As it is, Delph can only afford to look forward at this special time in his life, and believe that happy endings are just around the corner, at work as well as at home.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett, Westwood, Delph, Bowery (Holman 69), Weimann (Bent 76), N'Zogbia (Sylla 68), Benteke.
Subs Not Used: Given, Clark, El Ahmadi, Dawkins.

Booked: Sylla.

Goal: N'Zogbia 55.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Richardson (Riise 90), Emanuelson, Enoh, Karagounis (Petric 63), Duff (Manolev 10), Ruiz, Berbatov.
Subs Not Used: Etheridge, Frimpong, Hughes, Rodallega.

Booked: Enoh, Richardson.

Goal: Delph 66 og.

Att: 37,011

Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).

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