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Fulham 1-1 Aston Villa: Cottagers draw

last updated Saturday 03rd March 2007, 10:25 PM
Carlos Bocanegra
Carlos Bocanegra scores to draw the game with Villa
giving him his third goal of the season

Carlos Bocanegra cancelled out John Carew's controversial opener to earn Fulham a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa in the Premiership clash at Craven Cottage.

Carew broke the deadlock when he slid the ball past Antti Niemi, but Fulham midfielder Alexey Smertin appeared to be impeded by referee Lee Mason in the build-up.

Bocanegra supplied an immediate response, though, heading in at the far post to seal the fifth successive draw in this fixture.

It means Villa have still not won away in the league since November, but it moved them a point closer to confirmation of their Premiership status next season.

Fulham boss Chris Coleman had also been wary of getting dragged into the dogfight at the bottom of the table, and Bocanegra's leveller ended a run of three consecutive defeats in all competitions.

Despite the excitement in the middle of the first half for the two goals, there was plenty of scrappy play from the two sides 13th and 14th at the start of the weekend.

Only Michael Brown's shot from the edge of the area brightened up a tepid start to the match, the Fulham midfielder's low volley flicking off Gareth Barry and onto the crossbar.

But the match sparked into life in the 21st minute, with referee Mason at the centre of attention.

Match Stats Fulham Aston Villa
Goals 1 1
Possession 60% 40%
Goal attempts 14 11
On Target 7 4
Corners 5 8
Off-sides 3 8
Fouls 10 21
Yellows 0 2
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet

Fulham were already raging with the Lancashire official for allowing play to continue when Barry and Smertin tangled on the halfway line.

Villa's attack initially came to nothing, but Mason then accidentally blocked Smertin as the Russia midfielder tried to clear, allowing Barry to surge forward and play Carew through to score against the team he almost signed for five years ago.

It was the Norway striker's second goal since arriving from Lyon in January and his celebrations into the visiting supporters earned him a booking.

Villa's joy only lasted two minutes, though, with their own slack marking playing a part in Fulham's equaliser.

Liam Rosenior was fouled around 40 yards out and Franck Queudrue drifted the set-piece to the far post, where Bocanegra was on his own to head home from close range, his third of the campaign.

After the flurry of action, the gamed slipped back to its familiar pattern, Smertin and Brown patrolling an organised Fulham midfield, while Villa looked to utilise the pace of wingers Ashley Young and Shaun Maloney.

However, Niemi had little to do on his return to the first team, only his second appearance since the neck injury he suffered on New Year's Day against Watford.

At the other end, Fulham skipper Brown raced through in the 36th minute after Tomasz Radzinski split the visitors' defence, but Thomas Sorensen saved well with his legs before blocking Brian McBride's follow-up effort with his feet.

Gavin McCann received a yellow card three minutes from half-time for tripping Radzinski as Fulham mounted a counter-attack.

Brown struck a post from a tight angle following up a spill from Sorensen, before the Villa goalkeeper saved easily from a Smertin volley in the 50th minute.

The Denmark stopper was almost embarrassed soon after when Martin Laursen's backpass bobbled in front of him, but the danger was averted. It was Laursen's last contribution and he was replaced by Gary Cahill in the 61st minute.

Fulham then looked to change the shape of their attack, with Wayne Routledge coming on for Papa Bouba Diop in the 65th minute to give width to the hosts.

Villa replaced Maloney with Gabriel Agbonlahor, but still chances proved difficult to come by other than McBride fizzing a volley wide of the post with a shot from the edge of the area.

Heidar Helguson was brought on for the hosts in place of Radzinski for the last 20 minutes of the match.

Agbonlahor had sight of goal after Young had raced down the left flank, but Fulham were able to clear.

Stiliyan Petrov was just wide with an effort from long distance late on and Niemi was forced to save from Carew in stoppage time when the targetman shot on the turn.

Carew jumped into the crowd after his opener and earned a yellow card, but boss Martin O'Neill was delighted with the overall contribution of the striker he signed in January.

'In this day and age there are rules but you work all week to score a goal. Probably in three years' time you'll get four months in prison for celebrating,' O'Neill said.

'He's been exceptional for us since he's come in and when he's properly fit he'll be a great player for us.'

O'Neill was disappointed with his side's second-half performance.

He added: 'I thought we created the better chances but we were beaten in the last two games away from home when we played much better.

'The second half was a non-event and that was disappointing. I'm a bit disappointed and a bit frustrated but whether we did enough to win was debatable.'

Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Pearce, Bocanegra, Queudrue, Smertin, Davies, Brown, Diop (Routledge 64), Radzinski (Helguson 71), McBride (John 80).
Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Dempsey.

Goals: Bocanegra 23
A direct free kick taken, left-footed, by Franck Queudrue from the right, headed goal by Carlos Bocanegra into the bottom-left of the goal from the centre of the penalty area. Assist, a cross, by Franck Queudrue from the right.

Aston Villa: Sorensen, Bardsley, Mellberg, Laursen (Cahill 56), Bouma, Maloney (Agbonlahor 67), Petrov, McCann, Barry, Carew, Young.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Davis, Hughes.

Booked: Carew, McCann.

Goals: Carew 21.

Att: 24,552

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

Source soccernet
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