Villa snatch deserved win
Late goal secures the points
Last Updated: 25/08/07 6:06pm
Aston Villa snatched a last-gasp victory against 10-man Fulham at Villa Park thanks to substitute Shaun Maloney.
Fulham took an early lead through Clint Dempsey but, in an impressive second-half, Villa drew level when Zat Knight deflected home Ashley Young's shot before Maloney picked up Young's incisive through-ball to slot home at the death.
Villa could have taken the lead much earlier when Luke Moore fired home in the 69th minute, but referee Steve Bennett had already blown his whistle for a foul on Young, which led to a second yellow for Fulham defender Chris Baird.
Although there was a hint of offside about the winner, Fulham could have few complaints about the end result as Villa produced attack after attack.
Young in particular was a constant threat and demonstrated why O'Neill had paid Watford £8million for him in January as Villa camped in the Fulham half after the break.
But they looked like paying for lacking the necessary finishing power in the danger area until Maloney settled the issue.
It means Fulham are still searching for their first away win since September.
Steven Davis had an early opportunity to make his mark against his former employers after seizing on a square pass from Simon Davies but, as he lined up a left-footed drive, he was on the receiving end of an excellent tackle from Mellberg.
Baird was yellow carded for the first time after five minutes for clipping Young when in full flight.
But 60 seconds later the Cottagers stunned Villa by taking the lead through Dempsey.
Diomansy Kamara's pass took a deflection off a Villa player into the path of the midfielder whose rising left-footed drive beat Scott Carson via the underside of the crossbar.
Young was soon tormenting Fulham and he screwed a right-footed drive just past the post.
Carew had his first clear sight of goal following a pass from Young, but the former Lyon player was not sharp enough and Paul Konchesky was able to make the tackle before he could shoot.
Fulham looked to have strong claims for a penalty in the 31st minute when a half volley from Kamara at close range appeared to be handled by Martin Laursen but referee Steve Bennett waved play on.
Carew had another opportunity after the ball cannoned off Konchesky into his path but the ex-West Ham player got back quickly to put him off and the eventual low shot was easily dealt with by Keller.
Gabriel Agbonlahor had a golden chance after 35 minutes from a well measured pass from Nigel Reo-Coker. The England Under-21 player took the ball confidently enough in his stride but slipped his shot the wrong side of the post.
In first half injury-time Carew thudded a header against the post from a Young corner.
O'Neill had been involved in an angry exchange with referee Bennett when he left the field at half-time - and he took up a place in the press box for the second period after being banished from the dug-out.
Villa brought on Luke Moore for Petrov for the second 45 minutes and within five minutes the home side were back on level terms.
Reo-Coker's pass found the impressive Young in space on the left flank and he cut into the area before beating Keller with a cross-shot which took a deflection off Zat Knight into the far corner of the net.
That came a minute after Kamara had been close to doubling Fulham's lead with a low curling shot which defeated the dive of Carson but rebounded off a post to safety.
Villa were now in the ascendancy and Keller turned a powerful shot on the turn from Moore around the post.
Carew continued to spurn decent chances, heading wide from a Barry centre and then heading just over from a Young cross.
Fulham were forced into a defensive substitution as Knight limped out of the action to be replaced by Ian Pearce.
Then the visitors were reduced to 10 men with 20 minutes remaining as Baird picked up a second yellow card for a challenge on Young just outside the box.
Dempsey almost won the game for Fulham in a rare attack but Carson did well to keep out his close-range header - and then came Maloney's late winner.
|Aston Villa||Team Statistics||Fulham|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|15||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
|4||West Ham United||17||31|
|15||West Bromwich Albion||17||17|
|16||Queens Park Rangers||17||17|