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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