Aston Villa 0 Fulham 0

Last updated : 29 November 2008 By Footymad Previewer
Aston Villa wasted a golden opportunity to move into third place after being held to a dour goalless home draw by Fulham.

It was hardly the start they required as they kicked off their hectic programme of six games in three weeks.

It was a match that Villa boss Martin O'Neill expected based on Fulham's current record.

He had envisaged a difficult game with Fulham proving a hard team to penetrate, with a record of only one defeat in their previous seven games.

As a result, the game was far from a classic with Villa, to their credit, the side which made the greater effort to carve out a win.

Goal-shy Fulham, without a win at Villa Park since 1966, hardly looked capable of improving their record.

They went into the match with only two away goals to their credit and it was plainly evident why they currently have such a record.

They were often quite content to soak up Villa's attacking pressure with their Norwegian central defender Brede Hangeland - who is reported to be attracting the attention of both Arsenal and Spurs - emerging as their key player.

He played an important role in keeping Gabby Agbonlahor in check when Villa put the west London side under strong pressure.

Villa's best chances of breaking the first-half stalemate occurred when Gareth Barry headed just wide from a cross by Agbonlahor and Steve Sidwell saw his header from Ashley Young's free-kick go the wrong side of the post.

In comparison, Fulham's attack was almost non-existent with Andy Johnson failing to make any impact against Villa's strong defenders, Martin Laursen and Curtis Davies.

Villa's goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who made his record breaking 167th consecutive Premier League appearance, had a relatively quiet game and his only save in the first half came in the last couple of minutes when he flipped a Simon Davies effort over the bar.

Villa's increased pressure in the second half nearly resulted in them taking a 70th minute lead.

Ashley Young, who appeared to be involved in all of Villa's attacks, put over a cross which Barry headed goalwards.

Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer spotted the potential danger and somehow managed to get a hand to the ball and deflected it onto the crossbar and to safety.

Five minutes later it was Friedel's turn to show his goalkeeping skill when he parried a powerful shot from Clint Dempsey to keep Villa in the game in what proved to be Fulham's best attacking spell of the match.

In a game of missed chances, Barry was again angry with himself when he failed to make a clean contact with his head from Ashley Young's corner only a few yards away from Fulham's goal.

Sadly it summed up the game which failed to ignite during the entire 90 minutes, with Villa fully aware they need to show a major improvement in their UEFA Cup home game against MSK Zilina on Thursday.