Hangeland leaves it late to deny Villa

Marc Albrighton’s 42nd-minute strike looked to have given Aston

Villa a vital win when he latched on to a sensational cross-field

pass from Barry Bannan to finish in style. But Hangeland rose

highest to head home a free-kick from Danny Murphy with just

seconds remaining. The visitors should have opened the scoring in

the first minute when Albrighton put Stewart Downing in the clear

but he delayed his shot and Carlos Salcido cleared the danger. But

Fulham responded immediately with a cross from Simon Davies that

was headed straight into the hands of Brad Friedel by Zoltan Gera.

A dangerous cross from Downing in the 10th minute caused Mark

Schwarzer to punch the ball clear for a throw-in but both sides

were largely entrenched in midfield. In the 15th minute, Villa’s

England under-19 striker Nathan Delfouneso headed inches wide when

he rose unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box to meet a cross

from Albrighton. But a minute later it was Fulham’s turn to be

wasteful when Gera wriggled free of the Villa defence only to send

his shot a yard wide of the target from the edge of the penalty

area. Villa had Friedel to thank in the 18th minute when Davies put

Clint Dempsey clear but the American’s angled drive was save by the

outstretched foot of the Villa keeper. The loose ball fell

invitingly for Gera but his volley was just too high with the goal

gaping. Villa’s injury crisis deepened in the 33rd minute when

captain Nigel Reo-Coker was forced out of the action with what

appeared to be a hamstring problem. He was replaced by Ciaran

Clark. Delfouneso wasted another gilt-edged chance in the 40th

minute when Bannan’s pass found Luke Young on the right. Young’s

shot was saved by Schwarzer and Delfouneso headed over from six

yards. But Villa went in front three minutes before the interval

when a brilliant 40-yard crossfield pass from Bannan put Albrighton

through and the Villa winger cut in from the right before drilling

the ball into the bottom corner. Villa’s Delfouneso wasted another

chance to get on the scoresheet in the 54th minute when he sent a

tame shot into the arms of Schwarzer from the edge of the penalty

area. Andrew Johnson was introduced to the action in the 59th

minute in place of Jonathan Greening as Fulham looked to get back

into the game. Johnson has been out for 13 months, initially with a

groin injury and then a long-term knee problem, but after making

his return in the final minutes against Wigan last week, boss Mark

Hughes looked to the striker to save them from defeat. In the 62nd

minute Murphy’s shot from the edge of the penalty area looked

destined for the net until Richard Dunne’s diving header diverted

the ball to safety. Fulham’s appeals for a penalty when Dempsey’s

cross appeared to hit Dunne’s arm were waved away by referee Peter

Walton in the 66th minute. Villa full-back Luke Young produced a

crunching tackle on Salcido moments later which required lengthy

treatment and forced the end of his participation in the game. The

defender was replaced by Damien Duff for the final 22 minutes.

Johnson brought a fine save out of Friedel in the 74th minute when

he burst into the penalty area and drilled a low angled shot

towards the bottom corner. The Fulham striker should have levelled

in the 81st minute when he found himself with just Friedel to beat

but the Villa keeper dived to his right to thwart him. In the final

minute of normal time, Ashley Young was denied a goal when his

header from Downing’s cross was brilliantly saved by Schwarzer. But

centre-half Hangeland earned Fulham a share of the spoils in

injury-time when he headed home Murphy’s free-kick.