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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
April 5, 2014
• Villa Park, Birmingham
Referee: M. Oliver
• Attendance: 33532
G. Holt 70'
K. Richardson 61'
H. Rodallega 86'
I've been Chris Baker and thanks very much for joining me this afternoon.
A rare away win for Fulham has given them a real fighting chance of maintaining their Premier League status. They climb from the foot of the table up to 18th above Cardiff, who suffered a damaging defeat at home to fellow strugglers Crystal Palace and Sunderland who play on Monday night away against Tottenham Hotspur. Aston Villa certainly won't feel too comfortable on 34 points. Paul Lambert will certainly look at the absence of key players such as Fabian Delph, Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor as factors behind Villa's below-par display today.
I'm still trying to get my breath back after an astonishing second half here at Villa Park. It had everything that the first 45 minutes had lacked - intensity, drama, goalmouth action and most importantly goals. Fulham took the lead after a thunderbolt from Kieran Richardson. Their lead however was short lived as Grant Holt headed in from Albrighton's corner to make it 1-1 with twenty minutes to go. How important will Rodallega's header turn out to be come the end of the season you wonder?
90' + 4'
FULL TIME - It's all over! Fulham have held on to claim three precious points. Boos ring out from the home supporters but the contingent from London are absolutely bouncing. Villa's poor home record continues. Felix Magath and his player's will believe that they can now avoid the drop from the most unlikely of positions.
90' + 2'
Fulham have been doing the sensible thing and have held the ball in the corner for as long as they can in an attempt to run the clock down. Can the Cottagers hold on and start their great escape? Villa simply haven't been able to react to that dramatic late goal from Rodallega.
90' + 1'
Jordan Nathaniel Bowery
90' + 1'
Yellow Card Marc Albrighton
Villa Park is emptying pretty quickly at the moment. Albrighton is subbed off and youngster Jordan Bowery is thrown on to try to and rescue a point for Aston Villa. Four minutes have been added on.
Villa pump a free kick into the Fulham box after Riise gives away a silly free kick away just inside his own half. Hangeland rises highest and heads the ball out of harms way.
Yellow Card Lewis Holtby
Grant Holt wastes a very good chance to bring Villa back onto level terms but the striker can only sidefoot his shot well wide of the post. Fulham were caught napping there and were lucky not to be punished.
Assist Lewis Holtby
Goal Hugo Rodallega
GOAL! What a HUGE moment this could be for Fulham. A rare strike from Hugo Rodallega. Holtby puts in a fantastic delivery from the right hand side with his left foot. Rodallega glances his header beyond Guzan to put Fulham ahead.
Yellow Card Steve Sidwell
Fulham are turning the screw in this pulsating second half. The Lilywhites are committing so many men forward to counter attacks but some excellent last ditch defending from Vlaar sees off the danger.
The Holte End is baying for a penalty as Weimann goes down in the area after a clumsy looking challenge from Riether. It looks like Fulham got away with one there.
MISS! Weimann nods over the bar and probably should have done better. Marc Albrighton cut back onto his left foot and delivered a teasing cross into the box.
The goal technology shows that Lowton just and I mean just kept the ball from crossing the goal line. Aston Villa then flood forward and Tonev nearly scores a brilliant goal, curling the ball towards the top corner which is brilliantly saved by Stockdale. End-to-end stuff now as both teams go in search of a vital goal.
CHANCE! Holtby can't believe he hasn't scored. Rodallega broke clear down the right and rolled the ball across the penalty area and Dejagah stepped over it before it eventually reached the young German who danced around Guzan before his shot was blocked on the line by Lowton.
Villa certainly didn't look like scoring but they finally got a set piece right and Holt took full advantage. This game is anyone's for the taking now. it's going to be a grandstand finish that's for sure.
Assist Marc Albrighton
Goal Grant Holt
GOAL! Out of nowhere Villa are level. Grant Holt equalises with a trademark header from Albrighton's corner. The big striker towered above Hangeland before heading the ball down and into the bottom corner.
You have to say that Felix Magath's half time substitutions are looking like masterstrokes at this moment in time. Dejagah in particular has made a huge difference.
Yellow Card Ashley Westwood
Ashley Westwood is shown a yellow card after putting in a late tackle on Holtby. The majority of the crowd here at Villa Park has been stunned into silence by that wonder goal by Richardson.
Aston Villa make their first change of the game. Bennett goes off to be replaced by striker Aleksandar Tonev.
Assist Ashkan Dejagah
Goal Kieran Richardson
GOAL! Kieran Richardson opens the scoring with a fabulous strike! Dejagah brought the ball forward and rolled the ball across the edge of the area. Richardson then hits the ball first time and his shot arrows into the top corner to send the visiting fans into raptures. An absolutely oustanding goal from Fulham, no chance whatsoever for Guzan.
Yellow Card Joseph Bennett
As this match develops you feel that whoever shows the greater composure in possession and in front of goal will be victorious this afternoon. Joe Bennett then receives the first yellow card of the game after putting in a high challenge on Dejagah.
It has been a frantic start to the second half of this match. Both sets of player's must still have their manager's words ringing in their ears.
Dejagah has been full of running since coming on and get himself into a decent crossing position. Unfortunately, for Fulham the Iranian's cross is way overhit and goes harmlessly out for a throw in. The final ball from both sides needs to be much better.
Not for the first time this afternoon the resulting corner for Aston Villa fails to produce a goal scoring opportunity.
Bacuna then rattles the post with a stinging effort from the inside right channel! Stockdale got a vital touch to the ball to keep the score at 0-0.
Fulham have started the the second half with gusto. Rodallega has started brightly. Holtby tries to work a shot on the edge of the box but wants too many touches and his effort is blocked.
I must be psychic! Dejagah and Rodallega have both been brought on. Woodrow is withdrawn and is quite unfortunate to be the man sacrificed. You would have thought that Magath would've gone with two up front. Pajtim Kasami is the other Fulham player to be replaced.
Christian Benteke is the most noticeable absentee but Aston Villa have certainly missed the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor as well. Fulham have Hugo Rodallega, Ashkan Dejagah and Alexander Kacaniklic on the bench and it can't be long before one of them is introduced.
Both sides have been quite edgy which is perfectly understandable given what is at stake. Aston Villa lost their last home game to Stoke and their form in general at Villa Park hasn't been great this season. However, with Fulham's low confidence and dreadful away record their are certainly reasons for Villa to be optimistic going into the second period.
The home side started positively pushing the visitors back but couldn't maintain the pressure. Felix Magath will feel very encouraged by many aspects of the first half display from Fulham and will perhaps be disappointed that his team aren't ahead.
There goes the half time whistle. Villa 0-0 Fulham.
In quick succession, first Holtby and then Steve Sidwell force Guzan into action with shots from the edge of the box. Both efforts are straightforward for the American goalkeeper. Fulham are finishing the first 45 minutes much the stronger and won't want to hear the halftime whistle at the moment.
Paul Lambert will be slightly concerned with how Fulham have come into this match and are looking the more like to go ahead as we approach half time. Villa's best moments have come from getting the ball into wide areas and will need to improve significantly if they are to go in front.
Woodrow has another effort on goal which is deflected and easy for Guzan to deal with. The striker picked the ball up out wide and drove towards the edge of the box. For a player with such little experience he is playing with no fear and showing a lot of confidence.
It was a far from easy chance for Woodrow and he did well to work the goalkeeper. If there had been any Fulham players up in support then they may well have had a tap in.
Cauley Woodrow nearly puts the visitors in front but his low shot is well parried away by Brad Guzan. The young centre forward pounced on a stray pass from Bennett and was clear through on goal.
The match is starting to get stretched now as both sides are looking to make the breakthrough. You feel the first goal in a game like this will be so crucial.
Once again though Fulham fail to make anything of the corner. Bacuna then launches Villa forward with a surging run down the right wing. The midfielder smashes the ball across the six yard box but a combination of Stockdale and Heitinga manage to scramble the ball clear.
Holtby is starting to get on the ball a bit more and his flighted through ball towards Kasami is well seen by Nathan Baker who puts the ball into touch. Fulham have their third corner of the match.
Weimann goes close! The Austrian striker can only direct his header over the bar after good work down the left hand side by Joe Bennett and Westwood. Best opportunity of the match thus far.
Holt does what he does best by backing in and earns the home side a free kick. Ashley Westwood will be disappointed with his resulting set piece which is easily taken by David Stockdale.
Fulham seem to be growing in confidence as this first half develops. Aston Villa will need to take more care in the final third if they are to create some more openings.
The nerves of both sides are clear to see and is making the game quite scrappy particularly in the centre of midfield. Fulham seize on a misplaced pass from Nathan Baker and look to mount a counter attack. A decent move from right to left sees Kasami in space but he is flagged for offside.
Again Holtby whips in a decent ball but Vlaar heads the ball away at the near post. The team from west London will take heart from the fact that they have finally put some pressure on the Villa defence.
Holtby's corner is a good one but is well cleared by Villa but the header goes behind and it is another Fulham corner.
A strong run down the left wing by Kieran Richardson earns Fulham the first corner of the match, which Lewis Holtby will take.
Fulham are sitting pretty deep at the moment and are allowing the home side to have plenty of possession.
Villa just starting to up the tempo and putting some dangerous crosses into the box. Fulham stand firm and are defending well.
No real chances to speak of yet. Albrighton has had a shot well blocked and Holt was only inches away from converting Weimann's left wing cross. Fulham haven't got close enough to Brad Guzan's goal to pose a serious threat so far.
Grant Holt who is making only his second start since joining on loan from Wigan in January is getting involved in the match now, holding the ball up well and bringing his teammates into the game.
Fulham have started well here keeping the ball very nicely. Villa have barely had a touch of the ball since kick off. The three thousand Fulham fans who have made the trip are making themselves heard.
Aston Villa kick off, fantastic noise from the supporters.
Fulham subs: Stekelenburg, Riise, Kvist, Kacaniklic, Rodallega, Dejagah and Roberts.
Aston Villa subs: Steer, Clark, Luna, Sylla, Tonev, Robinson and Bowery.
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Stockdale; Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Amorebieta; Kasami, Sidwell, Diarra, Richardson; Holtby; Woodrow.
Aston Villa (4-3-3): Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bertrand; Bacuna, Westwood, Bennett; Albrighton, Holt, Weimann.
With 15 minutes to go before kick off here are the starting line-ups...
Aston Villa meanwhile have been rocked by the news that their star striker Christian Benteke will miss the rest of the season and the World Cup after seriously injuring his achilles tendon. it will be very interesting to see how Villa cope without the Belgian this afternoon and for the next six months.
Fulham are surely now drinking in the last chance saloon. Anything less than a win today will make staying in the Premier League incredibly difficult.
Good afternoon and welcome to Villa Park. I'm Chris Baker and I'll be describing the action for you today.
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