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Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Saturday, 29 November 2008

Aston Villa 0-0 Fulham

By Sam Lyon

James Milner, Paul Konchesky, Gareth Barry
Milner (left), Konchesky (centre) and Barry go for the ball at Villa Park

Aston Villa and Fulham played out a draw in a low-key encounter at Villa Park as the hosts missed the chance to move into third in the table.

Villa had by far the better chances, with Ashley Young again underlining his England potential with a fine display.

He was the creator as Steve Sidwell and Gareth Barry both headed off target from close range, while the winger himself had a stinging shot well saved.

Clint Dempsey twice tested Brad Friedel but Fulham will be happy with a point.

It is only the Cottagers' third away point this season, but Roy Hodgson will be delighted that his charges continue to show signs of turning Fulham into a force in the Premier League.

The visitors battled well without the ball and displayed assuredness with it, but they still will be relieved that Villa - and Sidwell and Barry in particular - left their scoring boots at home.

O'Neill unhappy over 'dropped points'

It was a match typified by misplaced passes and wasted opportunities, with both sides keen to sit deep and exploit their respective pace in attack on the break.

Few could argue with that tactic from a Fulham point of view, with the Londoners without an away win all season nor a league win at Villa Park in 35 years, but Villa's reticence to push forward until the latter stages was definitely surprising given their recent fine form.

And their performance again failed to underline their ability to break into the top four this season, with striker John Carew's absence because of a hip injury sorely felt.

Still, with Ashley Young on song, the hosts did at least offer the odd threat in attack and, minutes after he had rightly been denied a penalty after colliding with Dempsey, the winger's cross found Barry at the far post, only for the skipper to head agonisingly wide.


Fulham were more than holding their own in possession, but it was the hosts creating the chances, with Sidwell wasting a glorious chance to open the scoring on 40 minutes.

From Ashley Young's free kick, Sidwell found himself eight yards out and unmarked, but with Mark Schwarzer nowhere, he somehow contrived to head over the bar.

The chance came during Villa's best spell of possession in the half but, ironically, it was followed by Fulham's best effort of the match, Dempsey looping a snap-shot goalwards and prompting a smart save from Friedel, who tipped over.

Hodgson pleased with draw

A pretty turgid first half was followed by more of the same in the second, during which Villa's profligacy was again evident - Barry the guilty party on 70 minutes when he headed another fine Ashley Young cross straight at Schwarzer from six yards out.

Fulham, still probing admirably, almost took the lead against the run of play when Dempsey's firm shot was beaten away by Friedel, ensuring the American marked a record 167th straight league appearance with a clean sheet.

But those chances were an all-too rare aside as Villa failed to find the inspiration they needed in front of goal to break Fulham's resolve, the hosts greeted by a chorus of boos at the final whistle.

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
"Yes, that was an opportunity missed for us. We went into the game full of confidence but I knew it would be difficult. We missed a few chances to win the game and it's a couple of points dropped there's no doubt about that.

"You can analyse this game until you're blue in the face but if you take your chances you win the game.

"The onus is on us to push on at home but, yes, there were a few misplaced passes and some sloppy play so it didn't come off for us today, which is a shame."

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
"Neither side played particularly well I don't think but we held our own in the first half and even though we were put under a bit more pressure in the second, I was pleased with our resolve.

"We defended well throughout and we didn't allow them any more chances than you would expect to when you visit a top four side.

"Overall, I'm delighted with the players' attitude and approach and, in general, the team is getting better. We're not creating as many chances as I'd like but I know that will come in time so I'm happy enough at the moment."

Aston Villa: Friedel, Cuellar, Laursen, Davies, Luke Young, Sidwell, Petrov, Barry, Milner, Agbonlahor, Ashley Young.
Subs Not Used: Guzan, Harewood, Delfouneso, Knight, Salifou, Shorey, Gardner.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Dempsey, Johnson, Zamora (Gera 85).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gray, Etuhu, Stoor, Kallio.

Booked: Dempsey, Pantsil.

Att: 36,625

Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Aston Villa's Ashley Young 8.63 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Premier League as it happened
29 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
29 Nov 08 |  Football

related bbc links:

related internet links:
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Telegraph Villa stutter against Fulham progression - 18 mins ago
Guardian Unlimited Football: Saturday round-up: Sunderland drop into relegation zone as Bolton win on Wearside - 1 hr ago
The Sun Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0 - 1 hr ago
Guardian Unlimited Bolton thump hapless Sunderland - 1 hr ago
The Times Premier League video previews: Cole doubt - 29 hrs ago


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