Belfast Telegraph

Baird nets late winner

Chris Baird upstaged his returning team-mate Dimitar Berbatov with the late winner as Fulham defeated Aston Villa 1-0.

Baird got a deft touch to John Arne Riise's near-post corner to beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan and deny Villa what looked increasingly like a battling point.

Fulham had been the better side, with Berbatov in commanding form on his comeback from a hip injury, but they had failed to convert a hatful of chances.

Berbatov, back from injury, was first to threaten when he found a yard of space inside the Villa box and turned on Kieran Richardson's pass but Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan reacted quickly to palm the shot away from an acute angle.

Guzan then blocked a Richardson shot, with Sascha Riether shooting wide from the rebound. Brede Hangeland ran out of defence and slid a pass to Berbatov, who clipped a magnificent cross on the turn towards Baird, but the header was wide.

Gabriel Agbonlahor created Villa's first opportunity himself, cutting in from the left before unleashing a deflected shot which brought a diving save from Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

John Arne Riise whipped one cross in for Berbatov, who did well to force a save from Guzan, and then another for Hugo Rodallega but the Colombian headed wide.

In the second half, Berbatov failed to make decent contact as he attempted an acrobatic volley after Rodallega's cross had fallen to him at the far post.

Ashkan Dejagah came on for Fulham to make his debut and was quickly in the thick of the action, stinging Guzan's hands with a 25-yard drive. Then came the breakthrough. Baird stole in front of Eric Lichaj, Fabian Delph and Joe Bennett to get a touch to Riise's corner and beat Guzan at the near post.

The reaction inside Craven Cottage as much one of relief as celebration - although that should have been cut short immediately. Charles N'Zogbia squared the ball to Christian Benteke six yards out but he failed to hit the target and with that miss went Villa's hopes of a point.

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