Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa
Last Updated: Sat, 20 Oct 2012 17:37
Chris Baird's late strike steals all three points for Fulham as Aston Villa's poor start to the Premier League season continues.
Baird steered in John Arne Riise's corner on the 85th minute to mark his 150th appearance for Fulham, taking their tally to 32 points out of a possible 39 at Craven Cottage in 2012.
Villa went into the match in the middle of their worst start to a top-flight campaign since 1986-87 - a season in which they were relegated - and failed to turn their fortunes around in West London.
The home side had the better of the opportunities in the first-half and could have taken the lead after three minutes when Kieran Richardson's shot was saved at point blank range by Brad Guzan.
Dimitar Berbatov, back in the Fulham starting line-up, was instrumental for Martin Jol's side and set up Mladen Petric to head wide from eight-yards moments later.
Gabriel Agbnolahor looked most likely to score for the visitors but failed to trouble Mark Schwarzer with a couple of long range efforts.
Steve Sidwell should have given the Cottagers the lead just before half-time when he met Hugo Rodallega's swirling free-kick in the goalmouth but somehow put the ball wide with a free header.
Five of the previous eight meetings between Fulham and Aston Villa had ended goalless at Craven Cottage and it appeared to be going that way in the second-half before Baird's goal, despite both sides creating chances.
Steve Sidwell drilled a low shot wide before blazing a 20-yard strike over while Agbonlahor flicked Stephen Ireland's cross off target and headed over Matthew Lowton's cross at the other end.
Ashkan Dejagah made his Fulham debut as a 70th minute substitute and almost marked the occasion perfectly when his powerful shot was well saved by Guzan.
Moments later Fulham took the lead when Baird met Riise's corner at the near post and showed a striker's touch to flick a shot past the keeper, his third goal for the club since joining from Southampton in 2007.
Substitute Christian Benteke should have brought the Villains level immediately after the goal when he side-footed a shot wide from a glorious position while Lowton's late header forced a routine save out of Schwarzer.
Villa's goalscoring problems continue and they are left hovering two points above the relegation zone after eight Premier League games, continuing their miserable start under Paul Lambert, while Fulham notch up their fifth win in the campaign to move up to eighth.