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Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham Prem 33 1314 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 07th April 2014, 3:07 PM
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Ben Findon at Daily Telegraph

Aston Villa (0) 1-2 (0) Fulham

Do not write them off just yet. Displaying lion-hearted courage, a sense of adventure and two flashes of goalscoring brilliance, bottom-of-the table Fulham grabbed a precious victory that might just yet provide a platform to an incredible escape from the relegation zone.

This was their first Premier League victory at Aston Villa in 15 attempts, and what a day to finally get it right. Admittedly, it could scarcely have been a better time to visit injury-hit and out-of-form Villa but Felix Magath's side displayed real belief and no little ability to defy their label as Premier League down-and-outs.

They seemed set for disappoinment when Villa's Grant Holt wiped out a lead deservedly provided by Kieran Richardson's spectacular finish but with four minutes remaining, substitute Hugo Rodallega headed Lewis Holtby's cross beyond home goalkeeper Brad Guzan to send the 3,000-strong travelling support into delerium.

Maybe, just maybe, history could be about to repeat itself. Six years ago, Fulham were apparently dead and buried, entering the final six matches with 24 points, the identical state of play before kick-off yesterday. Back in 2008, Roy Hodgson guided them to four wins in six matches and survival on goal difference on the final day of the season.

With Norwich, Hull and Crystal Palace due to visit Craven Cottage, there are suddenly reasons to believe down by the Thames ."It was the last chance for us here to stay in the league.It was very imporant for us to win. It is a signal for everyone that we are back in the league and everyone who sees the game will see that we want to stay in the league," Magath said.

Fulham's urgency was apparent from the start and perhaps they were further encouraged by Villa's alarming lack of firepower. With Christian Benteke's World Cup dreams in tatters after sustaining a ruptured Achilles tendon, the home side's cutting edge was further reduced when Gabriel Agbonlahor failed to recover from sickness.

Paul Lambert, the Villa manager whose side left the pitch to a chorus of jeers, said: "We can't keep doing this, we have to rectify our home form. We have to see things through."

Magath boldly reshaped his attack at the interval, introducing the power and pace of Rodallega and adding the fresh threat of wide-man Ashkan Dejagah. It was the tactics of a man who knew victory was essential and he was rewarded when one of his substitutes set up a 61st-minute opener.

Dejagah, out on the right, struck a cross that fell perfectly for full-back Richardson, arriving late at the edge of the penalty area, to stroke beyond Guzan. But Fulham's priceless advantage lasted only nine minutes. Villa stirred themselves, winning a corner from which Andreas Weimann's deep kick was dispatched by Holt with a powerful, downward-angled header.

The Londoners came agonisingly close to regaining the lead in the 76th minute when Lewis Holtby's shot flew past the beaten Guzan only for Matt Lowton to scramble the ball off the line.

The game was wide open but Fulham were to be rewarded for their bravery four minutes from the end when Rodallega's finely judged header from Holtby's cross beat Guzan. Mission Impossible, the Great Escape or whatever other label you wandt to pin to it, Fulham may just be about to produce another Hollywood-style finale.

Aston Villa ( 4-4-1-1): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett (Tonev 66); Albrighton (Bowery 90), Westwood, Bacuna, Bertrand; Weimann; Holt.
Subs: Steer (g), Clark, Luna, Sylla, Robinson.

Booked: Bennettt. Westwood, Albrighton.

Fulham (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Heitinga (Riise 83), Hangeland, Amorebieta, Richardson; Riether, Diarra; Holtby, Sidwell, Kasami (Dejagah h/t); Woodrow (Rodallega h/t).
Subs: Stekelenburg (g), Kvist, Kacaniklic, Roberts.

Booked: Sidwell, Holtby.

Referee: M Oliver (Northumberland).

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