Saturday, 5 February 2011

Aston Villa 2 Fulham 2 match report

Clint Dempsey headed in a late equaliser to earn a stubborn Fulham a draw at Aston Villa.
John Pantsil had gifted the home side the lead when he headed a Stewart Downing cross into his own Fulham net.
The visitors hauled themselves level when Andrew Johnson nodded in after Steve Sidwell's strike was parried by Villa keeper Brad Friedel.
Kyle Walker's stunning 30-yard strike restored Villa's lead only for Dempsey to level in the 78th minute.
It was Dempsey's 10th goal of the season and, although both teams had to settle for a point apiece from a finely balanced game, they provided an entertaining spectacle showing why they have engineered revivals in form.
Having endured similar fortunes this season with troubled periods in the first half of the campaign - resulting in a passing flirtation with the relegation zone - both teams have improved in recent weeks and a draw seemed fitting.
The attack of both teams has played a big part in their recovery, with Villa splashing the cash on striker Darren Bent to help their cause while Fulham have looked more of a threat with Moussa Dembele and Johnson leading their line after a more consistent run in the side following injury.
A place in the top half of the table was the reward on offer for the winner and it was Villa who were the more determined to grasp the opportunity early on as they quickly started to overwhelm the visitors.
Downing produced a surging run from the left, cut inside and struck a low drive which Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer managed to get a hand to.
And, despite Bent slotting in the loose ball, he was ruled marginally offside before Villa took the lead.
There was a pace and directness about Downing, who ended another run with a 13th minute cross which Pantsil nodded across goal and into his own net.
It was the Fulham right-back's third own goal this season and he has yet to register a goal for the Cottagers at the right end of the pitch.
Villa were showing some slick touches and a rugged resoluteness to their play but Fulham were putting in a hard-working shift to keep them at arm's length to make sure the home side did not add to their lead.
However, the visitors struggled to make an impact in the final third with a Sidwell shot swerving the wrong side of the post their main chance of the first half.
It was a different story after the break, as Sidwell, who had left the Midlands club for Fulham in the January transfer window, played an integral part in the equaliser.
The midfielder again let loose from long range and, after Friedel parried his stinging strike, ex-Birmingham City striker Johnson stooped to nod in a leveller after 52 minutes.
Just as the ascendancy appeared to be swinging the way of the visitors, on-loan Tottenham right-back Walker popped up to drift past Sidwell and fire a low strike into the bottom corner.
The lead lasted just six minutes as Friedel failed to punch a Danny Murphy corner clear and Dempsey headed in as Villa were again pegged back.
Friedel made amends for his mistake by blocking a Johnson strike as Fulham threatened stealing a win before the home side ended up holding on for a draw.

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