Aston Villa might have -- should have -- picked up their second win on the trot against Fulham, but as has happened all too often this year, Paul Lambert's men dropped points, wasting a goal from Charles N'Zogbia and several mores chances besides and allowing the visitors to come back to claim a point.
The opening spell of the game was fairly quiet, marked mostly by the high press Villa were employing on Fulham's back line. The only event of note in the first ten minutes was what appeared to be a minor injury for Damien Duff, with the Republic of Ireland international withdrawn for Stanislav Manolev.
The match heated up near the half hour mark, and Christian Benteke should have opened the scoring from close range only to misjudge Ashley Westwood's cross and slice high and wide. That was only the start of a prolonged period of pressure from Mark Schwarzer's goal -- the keeper had to come to the rescue when Andreas Weimann looked as though he was about to latch onto a through ball, and Charles N'Zogbia drew two fine saves as the half came to a close.
The closest Fulham came to finding an opener before the break came when Urby Emmanuelson demolished Jordan 'definitely not a defender' Bowery and cut back for Dimitar Berbatov, but the Bulgarian's effort was nowhere close to his usual standards and ended up well wide. Not as wide, though, as Eyong Enoh long-ranger, which drew cheers from the home crowd as it honed in on the corner flag.
The second half very nearly started with a bang when Weimann escaped down the left, but his low cross was kept at bay by Schwarzer, who got fingertips to the ball in order to prevent a trio of claret and blue shirts from converging on the delivery at the far post. Fulham then came within inches of goal when a rather offside Berbatov seized onto a Bryan Ruiz pass and slotted past Brad Guzan; his shot hit the base of the post and skipped wide.
It was Villa, however, who took a deserved lead in the 55th minute. Weimann's run once again opened up the Cottagers' defence, and although his cross was blocked, the ball fell to N'Zogbia in space 16 yards out. The winger made no mistake, lashing into the bottom corner to make it 1-0. Fabian Delph came close to doubling the score shortly thereafter only to be denied by Schwarzer, but the midfielder would soon make a key contribution -- at the other end of the pitch.
Joe Bennett had done well to block Berbatov's long range shot, but although the corner was dumped in at the near post, Delph didn't get his jump right and flicked the ball over Brad Guzan and into the back of the net. It was a horrendously deflating goal for Villa, who had looked like serious threats to add a second, and suddenly the visitors were looking dangerous. If not for a horrendous finish, Mladen Petric would have added a second from close range
Delph failed to atone for his own goal, slashing wildly at a loose ball in the box, and despite chances as the game wore down -- most notably from Benteke -- the hosts simply couldn't do enough to secure a winner. It's an important point, of course, but it very easily could have been three.