Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa

A game that threatened to spring into life on a couple of occasions but, in the end, failed to deliver.

We may be five weeks into our competative campaign but there was still a buzz surrounding the opening league fixture. The sun was out and a clear run to the ground provided plenty of time for a pre-game beer by the riverside. Most people I spoke too were optimistic for a winning start, expecting our Europa League games to give us the edge. It wasn’t to be.

Both teams tentatively proped each other in the early exchanges. Not taking any serious risks but happy to try a pot shot or two when the chance was presented. Duff fouled someone on the edge of our box, seemed to have got away with it but then looked at the ref to check and was promptly pulled up for it. Like a naughty schoolboy caught by his own reaction. Villa sent that effort comfortably wide. Andy Johnson, who seems to have got his falling down trick sorted again (witness the penalty he won against Split), got us a free kick in a similar position at the other end. Murphy played a nice ball into the box which Clint nudged on, but John Arne Riise blazed over the bar. Riise will score goals for us and I suspect most of them will be belters. Shortly after that Duff collected a far post cross, had a swipe from distance but saw it curl lazily wide of the Villa post.

Something yet nothing. Murphy was having one of those days when only 50% of his passes came off. He wasn’t alone in this, but frustration got the better of him mid-way through the half and a lunge at Heskey (I think) got him the first yellow card of the day. Villa started to benefit from our carelessness, catching us on the counter whenever we lost the ball. Bent was caught offside twice in quick succession and Petrov tried one from distance.

Though we were ostensibly lined up 4-4-2, John Arne’s forward thinking often left us with three at the back. This may be why Jol is persisting with Hughes in the right back slot. Riise looked solid defending and exciting going forward. I can understand why Jol would want to make this work. However, I hate seeing the Hangeland/Hughes partnership broken up and, perhaps partly due to my own prejudice, felt Senderos was not nearly as assured as Hughes would have been in the same postition.

We started the second half at full tilt and dominated the game for a good 15 minutes. Duff & AJ combined well down the right before Given saved from Zamora at point blank range. Duff then switched to the left and exchanged neat passes with Riise only to see the cross cleared and Etuhu’s follow up shot blocked. AJ in particular looked lively all day. Working his socks off with or without the ball, he went on a number of jinking runs but just couldn’t find the finishing touch or the perfect lay off. The best chance of the game fell to Bobby in the 63rd minute. Murphy played a sumptious hollywood pass over the Villa defence to find the big man in space on the edge of their box. Zamora controlled well, cut back inside the defender but then misfired his shot straight at Shay Given. Moments later Murphy again found the killer pass, but AJ also failed to really connect with his effort.

Mark Albrighton replace N’Zogbia in the Villa midfield and the advantage seemed to swing back towards the visitors. Heskey had caused all sorts of problems, most of them physical, in a three man front line but now dropped back to a forward thinking midfield role. Demebele replaced Zamora with around 20 minutes to play but again struggled to get involved in the game. I’m not sure if he’s carrying an injury or just lacking match fitness but I think it will be a few more games before we see the best of Moussa. Villa forced three corners in quick succession but we held on and the game was allowed to fizzle out.

A fair result for two teams that looked a little rough around the edges. A better result for Villa undoubtedly but not such a bad result for us either.

8 thoughts on “Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa

  1. Senderos seems be getting a lot of flak, this despite us not conceding, and not looking in danger very often, against an attack with two of the top English strikers, Bent and Heskey. I thought Senderos looked fine – unlucky to concede a few free kicks when the ref was taken in by some playacting. Duff and Dempsey were quiet apart from a few brief spells. Dickson looked out of sorts. Bobby doesn’t look fully fit.

    1. I do agree Senderos is a capable player and maybe I was been over criritcal. Thought he got too close to his player a few times and forced the issue when he didn’t need to. I think if we do sign a proper right back then Hughes would reclaim his spot.

      Good to have the options available though.

  2. Senderos looked OK. More indecisive and uncomfortable than Hughes, though that’s probably a function of number of games. Seems a bit needless to breakup the h&h partnership though, especially as baird can tuck in like Hughes but also distribute the ball better on our tight right flank. Seems Jol is after a marauding french right back so doubt it will last too long. Don’t fancy our chances if the plan is genuinely to play around three centre backs. Other than stoke (with huth right) who has done that since the mid-90s?

    1. Stoke ony have the THREE centre backs? Are you sure?

      I’m surprised that H & H has been broken up and regard that as, at best, unnecessary but Senderos looks good to me.

      The key problem yesterday for me was that Murphy and Etuhu were outnumbered in midfield until Jol made a switch at half time by having Dempsey and Duff come inside more.

      To get more into centre midfield which I think is necessary either the support striker has to be sacrificed or we get our width from full backs by playing 3-5-2.

      1. The numbers in midfield is why I really like Baird at right back. When he comes forward he rarely overlaps like a traditional right back. Rather he steps into midfield and bolsters it with his above average range of passing. Yesterday, in his absence, you saw hangeland and senderos stepping up, neither of whom have Baird’s composure on the ball and passing. I see Baird as a genuine unique weapon in our armory and think it is a crying shame if we don’t use him (either sticking with Hughes it buying a traditional right back). This is especially true as we continue to play tight on the right, sucking the play that way and knocking it into space on the left.

  3. I am unable to determine which of Hughes or Senderos is better to partner Brede. I felt that Hughes was not as good last season as the season before, and that therefore it might be worth giving Senderos a chance. One thing I thought that was obvious from this game – and maybe it wasn’t as no one else seems to be of the same opinion which I find very frustrating – is that Hughes is not a full back. I think he looks out of place when being attacked down the wing and offers nothing going forward; he can’t cross, run at players or do any kind of attacking passing or play. I think we can just about cope with having one player giving us few attacking options, Etuhu, who – unlike yesterday – usually makes up for it with his defensive play. But when you have both Etuhu and Hughes to rely on when moving forward our forward going play suffers tremendously.

    1. I don’t think many of us think that Hughes is a RB but the fact that we appear to be seriously after the young French RB who wouldn’t be coming as a reserve suggests that Jol thinks so to.

  4. Hughes looked very uncomfortable at RB. He has played 400 games in the top flight and all of them bar 5 have been in the centre. Senderos did ok but i would much prefer to see Baird at RB and Hughes back alongside his usual partner in crime. Does Jol think Baird is a weak link? – i hope not. Baird has grown to become a key squad player so i hope its not the end of his FFC career.

    As for Dickson and Murphy, i think they simply had an off day.

    Onwards and upwards

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