Lee Clark marked his return to the Fulham first-team with a last-gasp equaliser as Aston Villa paid the price for missing two penalties in an engrossing draw at Craven Cottage.
The Fulham skipper preserved Fulham’s unbeaten start to 2005 in dramatic finish with a powerful finish from the edge of the area to rescue a point for Chris Coleman’s side. They had trailed since early in the second half when Juan Pablo Angel glanced Villa ahead with a deft header, but David O’Leary’s side were denied by two brilliant Edwin van der Sar penalty saves in the space of six minutes. The Dutch goalkeeper dived to his right on both ocassions to keep out spot-kicks from Angel after Fulham had also missed from twelve yards when Andy Cole placed his penalty wide.
The home side started with purpose as Tomasz Radzinski tested Thomas Sorensen with a fierce drive inside the opening minute and Cole came close to opening the scoring after a quarter of an hour – denied by a fine Sorensen save after excellent build-up play from Radzinski and Luis Boa Morte. Villa went close through Thomas Hitzlsperger, but the fizz went out of proceedings well before half-time.
O’Leary sent on Luke Moore for the second period and the visitors should have gone in front two minutes after the break when Lee Hendrie somehow spooned a cross from Nolberto Solano over the bar from three yards out. Hitzlsperger fired wide from 25 yards, but Villa were rewarded for their enterprising approach when Angel glanced them in front despite Clark’s frantic efforts to clear off the line.
Fulham were furious not to be awarded a penalty when Cole was caught in the box by Liam Ridgewell, but Chris Foy did grant their appeals five minutes later after Olaf Mellberg felled Boa Morte. Any home joy was shortlived as Cole, usually so reliable in front of goal, screwed his spot-kick wide of goal.
A tight game looked to be slipping away from the hosts when Moritz Volz brought down Moore six yards out and Foy pointed to the spot. van der Sar made a magnificent save from Angel and repeated the feat six minutes later after Liam Rosenior upended Gareth Barry. Fulham poured forward seeking to make the most of their good fortune – and Clark scripted a fairy-tale finish ending by firing home from the edge of the box after an optimistic Boa Morte shot had been blocked.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Rosenior, Rehman, Knight; Diop, Pembridge, Clark; Razinski (John 68), Boa Morte, A. Cole (McBride 73). Subs (not used): Crossley, Goma, Legwinski.
BOOKED: Boa Morte.
GOAL: Clark (90).
ASTON VILLA (4-4-2): Sorensen; De la Cruz, Mellberg, Ridgewell, Barry; Solano (Djemba-Djemba 79), Hendrie (Davis 64), Berson, Hitzlsperger; C. Cole (Luke Moore 45), Angel. Subs (not used): Postma, Laursen.
BOOKED: De la Cruz, Angel, Davis.
GOAL: Angel (55).
REFEREE: Chris Foy (Merseyside).