Vital Match Report - Fulham v Villa
Attendance: 25 693
The last time Aston Villa won away from home was the 2011/12 season at Wolves, over 9 months and 12 away games ago. It is not just away wins and points Aston Villa lack though. Goals are equally in short supply. Prior to today's game Villa managed a measly 6 goals in 7 After this afternoon's 1-0 defeat to the cottagers Villa can now chalk that up to 6 in 8. Further, the wait for an away win and our next point goes on. Perhaps, given their goal record Villa should not be surprised that they failed to score. Fulham's home record is also exceptional, having take 32 out of last 42 points available at Craven Cottage. Tough afternoon then and a tough place to go when you are not taking the few chances you are creating.
After his keys misses against Spurs Benteke, despite scoring in midweek for Belgium, found himself replaced by England International, Bent. Though it would prove to be a dry afternoon for the Villa front man, Bent failing to threaten in the 75 minutes he was given.
However, despite the statistics, Villa matched Fulham across the pitch both in defence and midfield for 84 minutes. The energetic Delph continues to impress, replicating the dynamic work rate of Holman. This is not a lethargic or insipid Villa side of last season. The team are sweating and fighting on the pitch and they are playing some neat, short passing football though for all their endeavour, effort and ball possession Villa conjured 4 efforts, with Fulham finding the target with 8 of their 17 shots.
It was Fulham that could have taken the lead early on though, having come out the blocks with superb attacking intent. Near flawless Berbatov had a powerful effort saved head on by a reactive Guzan from a tight angle inside the box. The Villa keeper then saved Richardson's low shot with his legs from close range, denying the Fulham man the opening goal.
The game then settled into a claustrophobic midfield affair. With neither team dominating. Villa's new found love of short passing play lead to interchangeable triangles and side to side movement of the football without ever finding a killer ball or weighted pass with which to unlock a well drilled Fulham back line. However, the longer the game went on the more Villa began to impose themselves, though they continued to search for further goal scoring opportunities. A good chance finally came in the second half, though Agbonlahor failed to head Darren Bent's inviting far post cross past Schwarzer and down into the goal.
As they did at Spurs, Aston Villa were to pay the price for wasting their possession and good build up play when Chris Baird swept home a Fulham set piece 6 minutes from time. This was perhaps unfair on Villa, who were forced into reshuffling at the back after Nathan Baker, who had been superb throughout, was substituted after sustaining an injury.
Villa came right back at Fulham from the restart. Benteke met a Charles N'Zogbia's cross, only to curl it wide of the post in a snatched effort, when the equalizer looked certain. This is the Belgian giants third miss in two games and it leaves Lambert with questions to ask and work to do on the training ground with Benteke.
A word for the away fans who gave Aston Villa all they had, shaking the ground and the Putney Road End with a near 15 minute rendition of 'Paul Lambert's Claret and Blue Army.' Perhaps it is about time our stable of strikers responded and gave us something to shout about in return. Undoubtedly, one recurring detail continues to remain worryingly obvious: Aston Villa need a creative ball playing midfielder.
Room for Improvement: Bent