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Aston Villa 1-2 Fulham Prem 33 1314 Mirror

last updated Monday 07th April 2014, 3:02 PM
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Ralph Ellis at The Mirror

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

Fulham striker Hugo Rodallega has been frozen out of Fulham by three different bosses this season - but could end the campaign red hot.

The ­Colombian striker emerged from a nightmare season to score the goal that might yet keep the club in the Premier League.

Ignored by Martin Jol, snubbed by Rene ­Meulensteen, who he accused of showing him a lack of respect, he's then had to wait behind a teenager under the reign of Felix Magath.

Before yesterday, he'd made just two starts, and even the six times in which he'd come off the bench added up to only another 67 minutes of game time.

But when he was finally handed the opportunity to prove his credentials - even if it was again as a half-time sub - he responded in the best way possible.

With the minutes ticking away and Grant Holt's free header having levelled Kieran Richardson's rocket shot, Rodallega found some room in the penalty area to guide home a header from Lewis Holtby's cross. "It was ­spectacular," said boss Felix Magath. "I think it was the last chance for us to stay in the League, to win here.

"Hugo has trained well and I asked him if he was in the right frame of mind and he told me, yes he was.

"He said that he would come on, and that he would score, and so I put him in. He did just what he ­promised."

It was a goal that not only gave Fulham a lifeline but kept Villa looking anxiously over their shoulders as they've been stuck on 34 points since beating Chelsea - a result that looks more important after three ­successive defeats.

Villa had Fulham ­wriggling on the relegation hook, and let them go - getting punished as they chased an unlikely winner.

"The game was too open," said Villa manager Paul Lambert. "With seven minutes to go we could have taken a point.

"They have got to learn to see games through, even if they are young lads. The problem is these fans would not accept us sitting behind a game, and I would rather go and try to win it than not."

And Villa were on the front foot when they were hit by a 61st-minute break, Richardson finishing off a pass from substitute Ashkan Dejagah with a rocket left-foot shot.

The lead lasted just nine minutes, with Holt, who had battled manfully to replace the injured Christian Benteke, losing his marker to meet Ashley Westwood's corner.

It flowed this way and that. David Stockdale tipped over a shot from Aleksandar Tonev while at the other end Matt Lowton cleared off the line from Holtby.

But then Villa pressed the self-destruct button. ­Westwood gave the ball away after Nathan Baker headed a free-kick clear, and nobody got tight to ­Rodallega.

The Colombian has got form for earning survival. It was his last-day goal at Stoke that kept Wigan in the Premier League in 2011. He might just have launched another miracle escape.

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