Fulham vs. Aston Villa  1 - 0

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Premier League: Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0

20 October 2012 18:26

A late goal from Chris Baird condemned Aston Villa to their third defeat in four Premier League games as they fell to a 1-0 loss at Fulham.

The home side dominated much of the game and eventually broke down a patchwork Villa defence that had defended bravely throughout when former Southampton defender Baird prodded in from a John Arne Riise corner.

Fulham made a fast start to the game and they forced Villa keeper Brad Guzan into a couple of early saves as both Dimitar Berbatov and Kieran Richardson were denied by the American stopper within the space of a minute.

Berbatov was the at the hub of every Fulham attack in the early stages, and the Bulgarian almost set up the opening goal, delivering a wonderful cross into the path of Mladen Petric, however the Croatian could only head wide of goal.

Guzan endured a busy opening to the first half, and Paul Lambert's men owed a debt to their keeper once more as he showed good reflexes to tip a Richardson ball just past the post after good work from the former Sunderland man.

Fulham had a strong shout for a penalty turned down after Joe Bennett appeared to shove Hugo Rodallega in the back as the Colombian leaped to try and meet a cross from Riise, but Lambert will have been pleased with his defence, who performed valiantly to prevent the home side from netting the opening goal that their play deserved.

Still, Villa could count themselves fortunate to go into the break on level terms, and they should have fallen behind just minutes before the interval as Steve Sidwell headed Rodallega's free-kick over the bar from close range.

The second half began in much more than subdued fashion, but Fulham almost found a spectacular opener when Berbatov's bicycle kick.

Villa, with the pace of Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor, were dangerous on the counter and came close to taking the lead themselves when Agbonlahor headed a Matthew Lowton delivery inches over the bar.

The visitors were forced into an emergency change on the hour mark, when Nathan Baker was replaced by Eric Lichaj after sustaining an ankle injury, however this did not appear to affect the Villans, who had finally managed to establishe a foothold in the game following their lacklustre showing in the first half.

Chances became fewer as the contest wore on, but Fuham were once again unlucky not to snatch the lead as Lowton produced an inspired piece of defending to block a point-blank effort from Rodallega.

The game looked to be meandering towards a draw but just six minutes from time Fulham found their salvation as Baird flicked home a Riise corner after Guzan had produced a stunning save to deny Ashkan Dejagah.

Seconds later Villa should have levelled, Belgian striker Christian Benteke firing just wide after Charles N'Zogbia had done superbly well to break down the right-flank.

Both Brett Holman and Lowton had late chances to level for the visitors but in the end they were punished for a lack of attacking flair as Martin Jol's men held on to claim all three points.

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Premier League preview: Fulham v Aston Villa

18 October 2012 11:28

Aston Villa fans will be hopeful Christian Benteke can replicate his international form when he turns out in claret and blue against Fulham.

Villa bought Benteke from Belgian club Genk for seven million pounds in August and the 190-centimetre forward has scored one goal in four matches for the English Premier League side.

Benteke notched a goal in each of Belgium's World Cup qualifying victories during the international break, scoring the opener in the 3-0 win away to Serbia and 2-0 triumph at home against Scotland, which put his country at the top of Group A in UEFA's qualification process for Brazil 2014.

The 21-year-old will now be expected to help improve Villa's goal-scoring rate in the Premier League, which currently sits at six goals in seven games, plus he will most likely lead the line for the Birmingham-based club as they travel to London to take on Fulham on Sunday.

Fulham's forward set-up is less clear cut as manager Martin Jol should have Dimitar Berbatov and Mladen Petric back from injury, while Hugo Rodallega will also be in contention.

But Jol could be without Bryan Ruiz, after the 27-year-old winger injured his thigh in Costa Rica's 1-0 win over El Salvador last week.

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert hopes Stephen Ireland will be back for the trip to London after the midfielder missed his team's last two games with a cracked bone in his wrist.

Lambert's side head into their clash with Fulham having gone three league games without a win, including defeats to Tottenham and Southampton, although they did knock off Manchester City 4-2 in the League Cup during that period.

Villa are 16th on the Premier League table, just two points ahead of Reading, who are in the relegation zone.

Fulham drew 2-2 away to Southampton in their last game before the international week and are ninth on the table.

Jol's focus prior to the match versus Aston Villa will most likely be defensive concentration with his side having conceded late goals in their past three fixtures.

Fulham have let in one goal after 87 minutes against Wigan, Manchester City and Southampton, and while it did not cost them points in the first game, they would be seventh above Arsenal and West Ham if they had avoided late goals in the latter two matches.

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 38 +43 89
2 38 +32 78
3 38 +36 75
4 38 +35 73
5 38 +20 72
6 38 +15 63
7 38 +28 61
8 38 -4 49
9 38 -4 46
10 38 -8 46
11 38 -17 44
12 38 -10 43
13 38 -11 42
14 38 -11 41
15 38 -22 41
16 38 -23 41
17 38 -13 39
18 38 -26 36
19 38 -30 28
20 38 -30 25