Fulham 0 - 0 Aston Villa
Fulham 0 - 0 Aston Villa
Two superb saves by Shay Given ensured new Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish left Fulham with a point.
Villa made the brighter start but Emile Heskey and James Collins headed wide from their best openings.
Fulham came to life after the break and it took an instinctive Given save to deny Bobby Zamora from close range.
Given kept Zamora out again soon after, this time with his legs, but although the home side had most of the late pressure, Villa survived comfortably.
Fulham also have a new boss in Martin Jol, who has been out of the Premier League since he left Tottenham in 2007, and although this was far from a flying start for either man, they can at least take some encouragement from seeing their teams open the league season with a point.
McLeish will probably be the most satisfied given the summer of discontent at Villa - he arrived in contentious circumstances from relegated neighbours Birmingham and the departure of star players Ashley Young and Stewart Downing soon followed.
The Cottagers have also had a busy summer and have been in action since June when they embarked on their Europa League campaign, but they did not appear any sharper during a quiet opening period.
McLeish has pleaded for patience while he builds a new side at Villa but it was his team who looked the more cohesive unit early on.
A few chances to look back on for both teams but no finished product by either Fulham or Aston Villa, and not much to choose between them either. New Villa boss Alex McLeish will be happy to bed in quietly, and I think the bigger test for him will be his first home game against Blackburn next week. The positives for Fulham manager Martin Jol are from his side's approach play
Heskey and Collins both sent headers off target when unmarked in front of goal, while Stiliyan Petrov fired just over and Darren Bent had an effort rightly disallowed for offside.
Fulham's efforts on goal were few and far between in the first half, with John Arne Riise slamming a trademark drive over the bar and Andrew Johnson seeing his powerful strike beaten away by Given after cutting in from the left.
But that all changed straight after the break, when Damien Duff's low cross was met by Zamora but brilliantly palmed away by Given, one of only two new arrivals at Villa since McLeish took charge.
A flurry of chances for the home side followed, the best of them bringing another fine stop by the Republic of Ireland keeper when Zamora controlled Danny Murphy's clipped pass but saw his drive blocked by Given.
The Cottagers continued to press but were unable to find a way to unlock Villa's defence in the closing half-hour.
By now Villa seemed content to sit back and the closest they came to snatching victory was when Marc Albrighton met Heskey's cut-back but fired into the side netting.
Fulham manager Martin Jol:
"We had three good chances but, for a home match, I would like to have more control, more initiative and we have to score at first.
"So, 0-0 at home, you can't say that is a very good result."
He added: "The first half, I thought they kept the ball better than we did and we looked nervous.
"We didn't keep the ball well enough for a home game.
"But the second half, especially the first 20 minutes, was good.
"If you're in their half, you have to keep the ball, and that is what I thought we did better in the second half."
Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish:
"His experience tells him when to go into the right positions.
"You might have seen other goalies diving for one of the two that came point-blank at him, but that's the experience of a great goalkeeper."
McLeish denied Given was solely responsible for today's draw.
He added: "I don't think it's fair to say that. I would never say that.
"It's a team game and the team contributed to that point."
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Live Text Commentary
Full Time The referee blows his whistle to end the game.88:49 Substitution
Substitution Stiliyan Petrov leaves the field to be replaced by Ciaran Clark.88:26
The ball is crossed by Luke Young, save by Mark Schwarzer.87:39
Philippe Senderos challenges Darren Bent unfairly and gives away a free kick. Darren Bent takes the free kick.86:48
Damien Duff takes a shot. Blocked by James Collins.86:21
The referee blows for offside against Andrew Johnson. Shay Given takes the free kick.83:36
Clint Dempsey fouled by Richard Dunne, the ref awards a free kick. Free kick taken by Danny Murphy. Darren Bent concedes a free kick for a foul on Philippe Senderos. Direct free kick taken by Philippe Senderos.83:36 Booking
Booking Richard Dunne receives a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.81:39
Foul by Stiliyan Petrov on Clint Dempsey, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Danny Murphy. Moussa Dembele challenges Stiliyan Petrov unfairly and gives away a free kick. Shay Given takes the free kick.81:39 Booking
Booking Moussa Dembele is cautioned by the ref for unsporting behaviour.81:09 Booking
Booking Caution for Stiliyan Petrov.80:47
Marc Albrighton delivers the ball, save made by Mark Schwarzer.78:52
Corner taken right-footed by Marc Albrighton to the near post, clearance by John Arne Riise. Fabian Delph takes the inswinging corner, Richard Dunne heads at goal, Philippe Senderos gets a block in. Inswinging corner taken by Marc Albrighton, clearance by Brede Hangeland.74:27
The ball is delivered by Darren Bent, Marc Albrighton has an effort at goal from the edge of the area that misses to the right of the target.73:40
Darren Bent produces a cross, clearance made by Philippe Senderos.72:38 Substitution
Substitution Moussa Dembele is brought on as a substitute for Bobby Zamora.71:58
Damien Duff sends in a cross, save made by Shay Given.71:26
Danny Murphy sends in a cross, James Collins makes a clearance.71:18
Damien Duff produces a cross, Stephen Warnock manages to make a clearance.70:40
Free kick awarded for a foul by Marc Albrighton on John Arne Riise. Free kick crossed right-footed by Danny Murphy from left wing, Darren Bent makes a clearance.
The ball is crossed by Stephen Warnock, Mark Schwarzer makes a save.66:23
Fabian Delph concedes a free kick for a foul on Damien Duff. Philippe Senderos restarts play with the free kick.66:23 Substitution
Substitution Marc Albrighton joins the action as a substitute, replacing Charles N'Zogbia.65:00
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Bobby Zamora by Richard Dunne. Free kick taken by Danny Murphy.64:29
Andrew Johnson takes a shot. Save by Shay Given.64:04
The referee blows for offside against Darren Bent. Brede Hangeland takes the free kick.63:49
Bobby Zamora takes a shot. Shay Given makes a save.60:23
Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Damien Duff from the right by-line, James Collins manages to make a clearance.58:33
The assistant referee flags for offside against Bobby Zamora. Free kick taken by James Collins.58:05
The referee blows for offside against Bobby Zamora. Indirect free kick taken by Shay Given.57:02
Foul by Emile Heskey on Clint Dempsey, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by John Arne Riise.57:02 Booking
Booking The referee shows Emile Heskey a yellow card.55:57
Charles N'Zogbia gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on John Arne Riise. Mark Schwarzer takes the free kick.55:46
Fabian Delph crosses the ball, Mark Schwarzer makes a save.52:11
Damien Duff sends in a cross, clearance made by James Collins. The ball is swung over by Andrew Johnson.48:58
The ball is sent over by Damien Duff, save by Shay Given. Dickson Etuhu produces a drilled right-footed shot from 18 yards. The ball is crossed by Damien Duff, Bobby Zamora heads at goal, James Collins gets a block in. Save by Shay Given.47:15
Stephen Warnock concedes a free kick for a foul on Damien Duff. Aaron Hughes takes the free kick.46:06
Bobby Zamora takes a shot. Shay Given makes a save.45:01
The referee gets the second half started.45:00 +2:02 Half time
Half Time The whistle is blown to end the first half.45:00 +1:15
Gabriel Agbonlahor concedes a free kick for a foul on Damien Duff. Philippe Senderos restarts play with the free kick.45:00 +1:15 Booking
Booking Gabriel Agbonlahor goes into the book.44:44
Damien Duff produces a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area that goes harmlessly over the target.44:26
Centre by Damien Duff, Richard Dunne makes a clearance.43:11
Dickson Etuhu concedes a free kick for a foul on Emile Heskey. Direct free kick taken by Stephen Warnock.40:50
Shot by Andrew Johnson. Save made by Shay Given. Corner taken by Danny Murphy. Bobby Zamora takes a shot. Blocked by Stephen Warnock.39:33
Gabriel Agbonlahor gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Philippe Senderos. Direct free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.38:41
Stiliyan Petrov takes a shot from 35 yards clearing the crossbar.38:10
Foul by Philippe Senderos on Darren Bent, free kick awarded. Stephen Warnock restarts play with the free kick.37:52
Damien Duff sends in a cross, Shay Given makes a save.36:50
Andrew Johnson is caught offside. Shay Given takes the indirect free kick.35:36
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Emile Heskey by Philippe Senderos. Free kick taken by Stephen Warnock. Charles N'Zogbia crosses the ball, Headed effort from deep inside the area by James Collins misses to the left of the goal.33:35
Fabian Delph fouled by Andrew Johnson, the ref awards a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Shay Given.32:50
Gabriel Agbonlahor concedes a free kick for a foul on Danny Murphy. Philippe Senderos takes the direct free kick.31:50
Foul by Dickson Etuhu on Emile Heskey, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed left-footed by Charles N'Zogbia, Dickson Etuhu makes a clearance.28:55
Clint Dempsey takes a shot. Blocked by Richard Dunne.30:13
Charles N'Zogbia takes a shot from just inside the penalty box which clears the bar.29:28
The ball is swung over by Charles N'Zogbia.28:16
Unfair challenge on Bobby Zamora by Richard Dunne results in a free kick. Free kick taken by Danny Murphy. Shot by John Arne Riise.27:45
Free kick awarded for a foul by Stiliyan Petrov on Clint Dempsey. John Arne Riise takes the direct free kick.25:35
The ball is crossed by Stephen Warnock. The ball is delivered by Charles N'Zogbia, Emile Heskey produces a header from inside the area that goes over the crossbar.23:58
Unfair challenge on Brede Hangeland by Darren Bent results in a free kick. Mark Schwarzer takes the direct free kick.22:44
The referee blows for offside. Free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.21:59
The assistant referee flags for offside against Darren Bent. Free kick taken by Mark Schwarzer.20:28
Danny Murphy gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Fabian Delph. Free kick taken by Richard Dunne.20:28 Booking
Booking The referee shows Danny Murphy a yellow card.19:10
Emile Heskey takes a shot. Mark Schwarzer makes a save.16:06
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Fabian Delph by Danny Murphy. Direct free kick taken by Stephen Warnock.15:38
Emile Heskey concedes a free kick for a foul on Danny Murphy. Danny Murphy takes the direct free kick.14:15
Damien Duff has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide right of the goal.13:43
Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Dickson Etuhu by Emile Heskey. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free kick.13:16
Centre by Stephen Warnock.9:52
Shot from deep inside the area by John Arne Riise goes over the bar.9:12
The ball is sent over by Gabriel Agbonlahor, clearance by Brede Hangeland.8:19
Charles N'Zogbia sends in a cross, Aaron Hughes makes a clearance.7:04
James Collins gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Andrew Johnson. Free kick crossed left-footed by Damien Duff from right channel, clearance by Richard Dunne.5:36
Foul by Damien Duff on Gabriel Agbonlahor, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed by Charles N'Zogbia.3:35
The ball is delivered by Damien Duff, clearance by James Collins.1:44
Darren Bent is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Mark Schwarzer restarts play with the free kick.0:43
The ball is swung over by Gabriel Agbonlahor, clearance by Brede Hangeland.0:00
The match begins.
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