Fulham picked up another point as they inched closer to Premier League safety after an own goal from Fabian Delph denied Aston Villa a vital victory.
Charles N’Zogbia looked to have curled Paul Lambert’s side to a rare win but Delph inadvertently headed Bryan Ruiz’s corner into his own net to hand Fulham an equaliser. Delph had a chance to make amends late on but lifted a far-post finish high over the crossbar after the visitors had failed to clear Andi Weimman’s cross.
Villa now remain in a precarious position at the wrong end of the Premier League table – Lambert’s charges are just three points above the relegation zone – and the reaction of the home crowd at the end of the contest showed just how badly Villa had wasted a glorious opportunity to put distance between themselves and the drop zone, especially with tough games against Manchester United and Sunderland on the horizon.
Fulham are now on forty points, which should be enough to secure their top flight status for another season, and were indebted to veteran goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer for keeping them in the contest. The Australian made an excellent save from N’Zogbia after Benteke had shot wide from Weimann’s teasing cross.
The Londoners almost stole a shock lead on the break after a surging run from Eyong Enoh culminated in Dimitar Berbatov driving just wide from seventeen yards. Schwarzer denied N’Zogbia from distance and then pushed away a Weimann drive. Fulham threatened themselves and should have gone in front when Berbatov clipped the outside of the post when played through on goal by a brilliant pass from Bryan Ruiz.
Villa made Fulham pay for that miss just a minute later when N’Zogbia seized on a shaky clearance from Brede Hangeland and swerved a fine left-footed finish past Schwarzer. The relief around Villa Park was tangible, but it proved to be very brief. Delph silenced the home fans by sending Ruiz’s corner into his own net and couldn’t find a finish at the other end to save his blushes.
ASTON VILLA (4-2-3-1): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett; Westwood, Delph; N’Zogbia (Sylla 68), Weimann (Bent 76), Bowery (Holman 69); Benteke. Subs (not used): Given, El Ahmadi, Dawkins, Clark.
GOAL: N’Zogbia (55).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Richardson (Riise 90); Enoh, Karagounis (Petric 63), Ruiz, Emanuelson, Duff (Manolev 10); Berbatov. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Hughes, Frimpong, Rodallega.
BOOKED: Richardson, Enoh
REFEREE: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire).