Christmas cracker at Cottage
By Andrew Scurr. Last Updated: 28/12/05 9:37pm
Fulham and Aston Villa played out a superb 3-3 draw at Craven Cottage.
Two goals from Brian McBride and a Heidar Helguson penalty looked to have sent Fulham home happy, however a Liam Ridgewell double and a Luke Moore strike always kept Villa in contention.
The game saw Fulham take the lead three times, only for Villa to hit back on each occasion to eventually share the spoils.
Kick-off had to be delayed by ten minutes after referee Richard Beeby was injured during the warm-up, and he was replaced by fourth official Andy D'Urso.
It took Villa even longer to get into the game, Fulham dominating the early exchanges without really testing Thomas Sorensen.
Despite the early pressure, it was the visitors that produced the first chance of the match, Luke Moore blazing over after good work down the right by Milan Baros.
Fulham, however took the lead minutes later through McBride, the American heading home Tomasz Radzinski's cross. Luis Boa Morte played in Radzinski down the right and his early cross found its way to McBride who headed home from 10 yards.
Villa could have equalised soon after the goal, creating two great opportunities to level. First, James Milner latched onto Steven Davis' low ball, however, from eight yards out, he could not get a clear sight of goal to get his shot away.
Wilfred Bouma almost levelled things up with a long range drive which, had it not been for the back of Dean Leacock could have burst the net, instead it looped inches wide of the opposite post.
Villa were back in the game on 29 minutes as Moore slotted home coolly after being played in by Baros. The Czech international striker played a superb through-ball for Moore to get on the end of and, after controlling the ball with his first touch, the youngster lifted the ball over the on-rushing Mark Crossley.
Fulham however made an instant response to conceding, and regained the lead from the penalty spot after Mark Delaney was adjudged to have brought down Radzinski in the area.
Running onto the ball, Radzinski was challenged by Delaney, and despite looking to get part of the ball, the referee's assistant instructed D'Urso to point to the spot. Helguson made no mistake from the spot, scoring in a similarly cheeky fashion to the one that beat Petr Cech just two days earlier.
The final stages of the half saw few clear-cut opportunities created, with Gavin McCann going closest. James Milner's deep free-kick went through everybody, striking McCann on the knee, however the diversion came back off the top of the post and to safety.
The second half began in a similar vein to the end of the first, before two goals in the space of a minute once again livened up the game.
Ridgewell's toe-poke got the sides level again, however parity only lasted 35 seconds before McBride headed home his second of the game. Villa equalised on the hour after Milner's low, near-post cross was poked through Crossley's legs by Ridgewell to level the scores at 2-2.
From Fulham's next attack, the home side were once again ahead thanks to a superb header from McBride. Boa Morte's deep cross was perfectly weighted for the American to power home into the top corner of the goal, leaving Sorensen with no chance.
The American almost claimed his hat-trick seconds later, however his looping effort landed on the top of the net.
Villa threw everything at the Fulham defence from then on, however some resilient defending from The Cottagers' back-line prevented a third equaliser.
However, with Fulham looking to hold on, they were inviting pressure and eventually crumbled, and Ridgewell claimed his second of the evening.
Milner was once again the provider, this time from the left, his low ball across the face of the goal was missed by three Fulham defenders and the central defender made no mistake from close range.
From then on, both teams shored up their defences, with the game turning scrappy in the latter stages.
McBride almost stole it in stoppage time for Fulham, however his left-foot volley went inches wide of the post.
|Fulham||Team Statistics||Aston Villa|
|2||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||3|
|3||Shots off Target||4|
Barclays Premier League
|15||West Bromwich Albion||15||15|
|17||West Ham United||15||13|