Fulham 1-0 Aston Villa

Chris Baird slots in Fulham's winner
Chris Baird slots in Fulham's winner

Fulham returned to winning ways as Chris Baird's late strike ensured Aston Villa's miserable start to the Premier League season continued.

Baird's finish, from John Arne Riise's corner, means Fulham have now taken 32 out of 42 points at Craven Cottage.

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Martin Jol relieved with Fulham win against Aston Villa

Villa, who have mustered only six goals in eight games, remain two points above the relegation zone following their worst top-flight start since 1986.

Substitute Christian Benteke missed toothless Villa's best opportunity.

Scoring goals has been problematic for Villa this season and their lack of cutting edge was painfully obvious yet again.

Villa boss Paul Lambert, who restored the England international to his starting XI in a bid to rectify the problem.

But Bent was starved of service as the visitors, for all their neat and tidy build-up play, lacked penetration in the final third.

And they were made to pay the price as their resistance was finally ended six minutes from time by a rare goal from Baird.

The Northern Irish international, fresh from his country's impressive midweek draw in Portugal, marked his 150th Fulham appearance in style to lift his team into eighth place.

However, Villa nearly snatched an equaliser within seconds as Benteke, who netted for Belgium in their midweek World Cup qualifying win against Scotland, smashed a snapshot wide from Charles N'Zogbia's cross.

In contrast to Villa's lack of goalscoring threat Fulham looked dangerous from the off, with Dimitar Berbatov again inspiring the Cottagers following his summer move from Manchester United.

The hosts were quickly into their stride in a high-tempo start and it was Berbatov pulling all the strings.

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Aston Villa didn't deserve loss says manager Paul Lambert

Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan had to be alert in the opening stages to parry the Bulgarian's fierce shot from a tight angle, before denying Kieran Richardson from close range with his legs after intricate build-up play involving Berbatov and Sascha Riether.

Guzan continued to be the busiest of the two goalkeepers as Villa failed to stretch Fulham stopper Mark Schwarzer.

But Fulham began to lose their fluency after the half-time break, allowing the visitors to grow in confidence as they gained a foothold in the match.

Agbonlahor could not flick Stephen Ireland's cross goalwards before heading over another right-wing centre from Bent at the far post.

Lambert would have been happier with a point than Fulham counterpart Martin Jol, but the visiting boss was left ruing his luck after Baird scored only the third goal of his Cottagers career.

And it means Villa are now winless in their last 12 Premier League away matches, spanning nine months, since beating Black Country rivals Wolves in January.

Fulham boss Martin Jol:

"It was a bit of a relief. At the end to score from a corner kick sums it up - scrappy. But we grinded out a result, which is good for us.

"At home I would like to see us dominate and get the goal - that's not what we did today. But I'm happy to get the three points.

"Chris Baird is very good at attacking the near post, he is always close but he hasn't scored for as long as I have known him.

"I was happy to see him score - especially because the corner kick probably was not the best."

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert:

"I thought some of the football we played was great. I thought we gave as good as we got.

"We came here, where their form has been really good, and gave a good account of ourselves.

"There are a lot of good things. We have to turn the good things into wins. But to concede from a set-piece was disappointing."

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