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Aston Villa 1-1 Fulham Prem32 The Guardian

last updated Monday 15th April 2013, 2:26 PM

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Richard Rae at The Guardian

Aston Villa (0) 1 Fulham (0) 1

Before this match, Aston Villa supporters were, if not relaxing, then at least starting to breathe a little easier.

Three wins in the previous four games had lifted the pressure on their young team, generating the sort of momentum that looked likely to carry them to safety sooner rather than later.

For all that Paul Lambert insisted afterwards that this was a point gained rather than two lost, it was a result that will bring much of the former nervousness and tension flooding back.

While Villa are now three points clear of the relegation zone, Sunderland and Wigan below them both have games in hand.

With Manchester United at Old Trafford up next, Villa's game at home to Sunderland on 29 April could send the loser down.

"We played really well and I have nothing but praise for the performance," said Lambert, after seeing Charles N'Zogbia put his side ahead before Fabian Delph's own goal brought Fulham level.

"That point could be absolutely massive.

We're pulling teams right into us and I'm not too disappointed.

Fulham went to White Hart Lane and turned over a right top side in Tottenham, and I think they don't get the credit they deserve.

"A few games ago there wasn't as many teams down there [towards the bottom of the table] as there are now, there's a right cluster, and if we can find another couple of wins we'll put them under real pressure. "

Neither side was looking particularly penetrative up until the half-hour mark, when Villa put together a brief spell of pressure.

The nearest they came to scoring was when the busy Andreas Weimann put over a cross that Christian Benteke, from a difficult position, steered a couple of feet wide.

Benteke turned creator shortly after the half-hour, pulling a low ball back across the goalmouth for N'Zogbia to side-foot a volley goalwards from eight yards out.

The Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer reacted with commendable smartness to turn the ball around his right-hand post.

Forced to drop increasingly deep in search of the ball, Dimitar Berbatov was struggling to have any sort of positive impact, but Fulham's Bulgarian striker looked certain to score shortly after the break, when he ran on to Bryan Ruiz's through ball.

He slid his shot past Villa keeper Brad Guzan, but it rebounded away off the outside of the post.

Moments later, Villa were ahead.

Weimann burst into the Fulham penalty area and pulled the ball back across the six-yard box and, although Brede Hangeland stuck out a foot, he only succeeded in diverting the ball to N'Zogbia, who cut on to his left foot and curled his shot beyond Schwarzer.

In need of a break, Fulham got a big one.

Ruiz swung in a near-post corner from the Fulham right and, with no Fulham player within yards, Delph so badly mistimed his attempt to head clear that the ball skimmed off his head and over his own goalline.

To make matters worse, he then shot wildly over when Weimann's cross offered him a chance of redemption.

For Martin Jol, reaching the 40-point mark was reason for considerable satisfaction.

"The results were OK for us today," the Fulham manager said.

"Hopefully, for Villa, with their philosophy with all their youngsters, they will stay up.

"I think the future is theirs, but if you string six, seven, eight passes together at the moment, you can create chances against them.

I'm sure they'd like to swap with us right now. "

In terms of points, certainly.

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