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Aston Villa 1-1 Fulham Prem32 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 15th April 2013, 2:35 PM
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John Percy at Daily Telegraph

Aston Villa (0) 1 Fulham (0) 1

Paul Lambert's hopes of taking another substantial stride towards Premier League safety were damaged after Fabian Delph's own goal.

Delph could only head Bryan Ruiz's corner into his own net in the 66th minute to leave Villa still only three points adrift of the relegation zone.

Villa had appeared on course for a fourth win in five games after Charles N'Zogbia's second league goal of the season.

But Delph's unfortunate error leaves Lambert with work still to do in his survival mission, with a trip to Manchester United up next.

The visit of Fulham - annually willing stooges on visits to Villa Park - should have represented a genuine opportunity to ease their relegation fears.

Lambert's team had moved away from the dreaded dotted line after a recent and timely revival but there was an unmistakeable whiff of complacency in the air in the early stages.

It was a subdued start as both teams appeared to stage an impromptu competition over who could give the ball away more often.

But Villa eventually shattered the tedium when Christian Benteke should have scored on 25 minutes after Fulham's defence failed to cut out Andreas Weimann's cross, but he somehow volleyed over from six yards.

Villa were also frustrated opener six minutes later when Mark Schwarzer brilliantly kept out Charles N'Zogbia's volley at the near post.

Fulham are in the comfort zone after virtually securing their own safety, though Dimitar Berbatov could have been playing with slippers on for much of the season anyway.

Berbatov loitered with languid intent, orchestrating play from almost in a midfield role, and had the best chance for the visitors two minutes before half-time when Urby Emanuelson found him on the edge of the area, but he rolled his shot wide.

That miss was excusable, but the chance he missed five minutes into the second half had even manager Martin Jol dancing up and down in fury.

Ruiz teased his way through the Villa midfield to find the Bulgarian in the box and he had only Guzan to beat but screwed his shot wide and off the outside of the post.

It was a miss that proved costly.

Five minutes later Brede Hangeland's clearance from Weimann's cross was poor and N'Zogbia cleverly curled his shot into the far corner.

Thoughts of taking another step towards safety didn't last long, however.

Ruiz's corner drifted wickedly towards goal and Delph was helpless as he headed into his own net.

Delph could have atoned for that mistake when he was presented with a decent chance from eight yards but his shot almost cleared the Holte End.

Benteke missed another opportunity to win the game in the final minute to leave Lambert still unable to breathe more easily.

Villa (4-2-3-1): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett; Westwood, Delph; N'Zogbia (Sylla 68), Weimann (Bent 76), Bowery (Holman 69); Benteke.
Subs (not used): Given (gk), El Ahmadi, Dawkins, Clark.

Booked: Sylla

Fulham (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Richardson (Riise 90); Enoh, Karagounis (Petric 63), Ruiz, Emanuelson, Duff (Manolev 10); Berbatov.
Subs (not used): Frimpong, Hughes, Rodallega, Etheridge (gk)

Booked: Richardson, Enoh

Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffs)

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