Fulham 1 Aston Villa 0 - match report
Aston Villa's poor away form in the Premier League continued as Chris Baird's late goal gave Fulham all three points at Craven Cottage.
The claret and blues have not won on the road in the league since the 3-2 victory over Wolves in January, and have claimed just one point from a possible 15 available away from Villa Park this season.
It was a lapse in concentration from a corner which cost Villa as Baird nipped in at the front post to turn the ball past Brad Guzan from a John Arne Riise corner in the 84th minute.
Darren Bent was recalled to the starting line-up in place of Christian Benteke having been left on the substitutes' bench for Villa's last two Premier League games.
Ciaran Clark was ruled out with a knock picked up on international duty with Ireland so Nathan Baker came in to partner captain Ron Vlaar at the heart of the Villa defence.
Stephen Ireland was passed fit enough to play with a cast on the wrist he fractured against Southampton with Marc Albrighton the man to make way.
Fulham started brightly and Villa keeper Guzan was forced to make two fine saves in the opening five minutes to deny Dimitar Berbatov, and moments later Kieran Richardson, from close range.
Villa gradually started to come to life and a deflected Gabby Agbonlahor shot from distance in the 17th minute brought a diving save from Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer.
The home side continued to pose the greater threat and Berbatov perhaps should have done better when he sliced a half-volley into the stands from a good position in the 39th minute.
Villa old boy Steve Sidwell went close with a header from near the penalty spot shortly afterwards having got on the end of a free-kick from Hugo Rodallega.
The visitors carved out a chance on the stroke of half-time when Karim El Ahmadi's clever flick allowed Agbonlahor to escape but his low cross was cleared by Sascha Riether who got to the ball ahead of Bent.
Paul Lambert's side began the second half positively and Agbonlahor failed to get clean contact with an audacious flick from Ireland's low cross,
Agbonlahor was in the right position again in the 55th minute but powered a header over the crossbar from Matthew Lowton's teasing cross to the back post.
The game became a little disjointed as both sides struggled to keep possession while Villa were dealt a blow in the 62nd minute when Baker limped out with an ankle injury and was replaced by Eric Lichaj.
Lowton made a vital block to deny Rodallega on the edge of the area in the 73rd minute as Fulham countered and two minutes later Lambert replaced Bent with Benteke.
Ashkan Dejagah brought a fine save out of Guzan with a rasping shot from the edge of the area after he was teed up by and the Cottagers scored from the resulting corner.
Riise whipped in a low ball to the near post and Baird nipped in front of Fabian Delph, Joe Bennett and Lichaj to strike a low shot past Guzan.
Benteke missed a gold opportunity to equalise almost straight from the restart when the Belgium striker got on the end of substitute Charles N'Zogbia's cross but screwed his shot wide.
By Timothy Abraham
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