Writer: Ollie Sheehan
Date:Sunday March 26 2006
Despite several missed chances and end-to end football, neither side could take the plaudits away from this match at Villa Park.
This was a match beginning and ending in frustration for both sides. From both teams’ perspectives, much more is expected from their own sets of supporters, but the way this game was played, it was fairly evident why Aston Villa and Fulham occupy 14th and 15th in the Premiership table this morning.
Some of the quality of passing was below what any supporter should expect from a Premier League encounter. The ball was given away time and time again in midfield, carelessly whilst neither side managed to dig in enough to really dictate the game the way they wanted it played. It was open, it was sloppy and in the end 0-0 was probably about right.
Villa started the game in a positive fashion, Luke Moore being set off on a run by Lee Hendrie and but for a wrongly given offside decision, he might have done better. The ball was played over on the inside left channel and Hendrie looked level as he took the ball down on his chest and half volleyed just wide of the far post.
Fulham started to take the initiative though and for a while it seemed, the away side got into the game and looked the most likely dictators. Collins John starting ahead of Heider Helguson was played in on the inside right and should have done better than shooting across goal.
A cross from the right saw Zat Knight’s header connect with Luke Moore’s hand but despite Fulham’s protests, the penalty was not given.
Fulham continued to carry the momentum and Malbranque, again the catalyst as he was all afternoon, crossed low from the right only for John to slice his shot way over the cross bar.
Rosenior then made a good run down the left and put in an excellent cross which Liam Ridgewell did well to head away to safety.
But for all their possession and creativity Fulham simply could not make the break-through and their momentum seemed to peter out after that.
Aston Villa seized the initiative. A corner coming in from the left saw the ball bobbling around in the Fulham penalty area and eventually Philip’s header found Lee Hendrie in space on the left of the area but his cushioned side-foot volley went narrowly over, only succeeding in landing on the roof of the net.
The Villains started to exploit Luke Moore’s pace and much of their subsequent forward movement was played through him. First Philips played a 50 yard ball to Moore who gratefully took it down on the outside right of the area, before outpacing Ian Pearce and flashing a shot wide of the far post with his left foot when McCann making a run into the area might have been a better option.
Another Villa corner saw the ball swung deep into the Fulham area. Zat Knight stuck out his boot and missed it with the ball deflecting off his knee. As every fan in the ground held their breath Crossley reacted assuredly to smother the ball.
Another chance just before half-time saw Boa Morte run down the left and shoot near post with Sorenson having to be more than alert to ensure the ball did not creep in the near post.
At the other end De La Cruz repeated the feat, this time from the right he outpaced Rosenior only to see his ball fly over leaving Crossley untroubled.
The half-time whistle sounded to a chorus of boo’s from around the ground and one banner declaring the writer’s dissatisfaction; ‘O’ Leary Out’ it read. Yet the Villa manager claimed only this week that he ‘loves’ the club and wants to make big change sin the summer. If Villa continue on this dismal run it might not be up to him whether he even has the chance.
The second-half continued in much the way the first half had ended. It was sc**ppy, the passing in many cases was poor and bar Mark Pembridge in the centre of Fulham’s midfield, no other player seemed to take the initiative.
Malbranque was presented with a fantastic opportunity after John had headed on a routine Crossley clearance. But his wits eluded him and what should have been 1-0, turned out to be a wasted chance as with time and space, he blasted well wide.
Villa looked promising for a moment in the second-half when Philips ran at the Fulham defence only to hit an over-weighted pass to Moore. It gave the visitors enough time to organise their defence and by the time Davis crossed after receiving Moore’s pass, the chance was gone.
O’Leary took Luke Moore off with 20 minutes to go and replaced with Angel, in the hope that the substitute could execute his killer instinct on a game that lacked exactly that.
Fulham again started to look the more threatening with Brown and Malbranque getting forward at every opportunity and Pembridge acting as the midfield linchpin, dictating the pace of the game.
Brown played it onto Malbranque who could have shot but chose to drill a pass to McBride at the far post that was just slightly over hit.
Villa rallied in the closing stages of the game with Hughes getting good leap to meet a corner only to execute such a weak connection to the ball that it ended up rolling out by the opposite corner flag.
Philips as well had a late chance to seal it with a strike in the penalty area that he really should have done better with. Again, it flew well over the bar and really summed up the Villains frustrations. It more or less, summed up the entire game.
Date:Sunday March 26 2006
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