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  • Fulham 1-1 Aston Villa: Albrighton scored, Hangeland last-gasp header

    Brede Hangeland scored a last-gasp equaliser as Fulham earned a 1-1 Premier League draw against Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.
    Marc Albrighton - whose first-half goal appeared to have given Villa the win - gave away a free-kick in the final seconds of injury-time, with Danny Murphy’s delivery met by a towering header from the giant Norwegian.

    On 41 minutes Albrighton, 20, beat Mark Schwarzer with a superb low finish after he was sent through on the right by an equally-impressive cross-field pass by Barry Bannan.

    Both sides stay lower mid-table, on 12 points but Fulham in 10th on account of their goal difference.

    The match ebbed and flowed and Fulham had their chances before Hangeland struck, with Zoltan Gera and Andy Johnson particularly wasteful.

    Villa were dangerous on the break though, with their pace seeming to vindicate Gerard Houllier’s decision to trust in youth as he preferred Albrighton and Bannan to Stephen Ireland and Steve Sidwell.

    They were not the only youngsters on display, with Nathan Delfouneso given a first league start thanks to a striking injury crisis, and Ciaran Clark brought on when captain Nigel Reo-Coker limped off injured in the first half.

    Both sides started the first half well enough, trading chances in a bright opening. Stewart Downing was denied an early strike by Aaron Hughes’s saving challenge, while Fulham broke as Gera headed straight at Brad Friedel after an excellent hanging cross by Simon Davies.

    The end-to-end pattern continued as Delfouneso headed an excellent cross by Albrighton inches wide; Fulham responded with another Gera miss, the Hungarian scuffing wide after Moussa Dembele helped him spring the offside trap with a smart through ball.

    Gera was getting in positions but appeared to have left his finishing skills at home, volleying the loose ball over with Friedel out of position after the Villa keeper saved from fellow American Clint Dempsey.

    Villa retreated and Fulham passed, moved and pressed but - with Villa’s back four solid and muscular - they were unable to really break them down, with Dembele’s flashing shot over the closest they came despite 20 minutes of territorial dominance.

    The visitors seemed to have allowed themselves to be pushed too deep but, on the counter, they created and missed a great chance five minutes before the break, Delfouneso heading over an open goal after Schwarzer saved from Luke Young.

    It mattered not though as, seconds later, they were ahead thanks to the combination of two of their academy products.

    Bannan, preferred in midfield to the out-of-sorts Ireland, played an excellent cross-field pass from left to right that Albrighton took down expertly, leaving Carlos Salcido floundering before drilling a vicious low shot across Schwarzer into the bottom left.

    The second half started as a bit of a grind, as neither side created much of note, with Dembele - not a natural target man - looking a touch isolated with the deep-lying Dempsey and Gera looking to feed off him.

    The first chance fell to Villa, as Delfouneso fired weakly at Schwarzer after a breaking the offside trap. Otherwise it was quiet all round until the introduction of Johnson on the hour mark, Fulham going to 4-4-2 and immediately looking more likely.

    Murphy had a goal-bound shot blocked by the head of a typically brave Richard Dunne, while Luke Young somehow escaped censure after a scissors tackle ended Salcido’s part in the game as Villa got everyone behind the ball.

    From nothing Villa could have got a second, Albrighton blasting over after Fulham were caught cold by a throw-in routine. The Whites immediately responded as Johnson cut inside from the left and shot past the flailing challenge of James Collins, stinging the palms of Friedel.

    Johnson looked bright and positive but he clearly lacked some sharpness when, after Dembele sent him clean through with nine minutes left, he took a heavy touch when he should have finished first time, allowing Friedel to fly out and block.

    Fulham piled it on in the latter stages but Villa were defending well and bravely, and they had some good chances on the break, with the otherwise quiet Ashley Young meeting Downing’s inch-perfect cross with a diving header but denied by Schwarzer.

    Injury time saw Villa cannily keep the ball in the corners as Fulham barely got a sniff, as Ashley Young again went close, putting a bouncing shot just wide.

    But, in the closing seconds of the fourth and final minute of injury time, Fulham had a free-kick on the left wing, sending everyone bar Schwarzer up and rewarded when Hangeland rose head and shoulders above the rest to divert Murphy’s pinpoint cross into the bottom right corner.

    It was the Norway defender’s second last-gasp equaliser this season, after the 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
    Reda Maher / Eurosport


    Team Line-up:

    Fulham: Schwarzer, Baird, Hangeland, Hughes, Salcido, Davies, Greening, Murphy, Gera, Dembele, Dempsey; Subs: Stockdale, Kelly, Pantsil, Andrew Johnson, Duff, Etuhu, Eddie Johnson
    Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Bannan, Reo-Coker, Downing, Ashley Young, Albrighton, Delfouneso; Subs: Guzan, Sidwell, Ireland, Clark, Cuellar, Hogg, Lichaj


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