Carew's sharpshooting sends a substantial warning to rival defences
Fulham 1 Aston Villa 1
Published 05/03/2007 | 09:39
At 6ft 4in and blessed with such sobriquets as "The Hulk" and "Little John", it is difficult to ignore the presence of John Carew.
Equally, given his physique, experience and clever technique for such a big man, it will be difficult for many Premiership defences to contain him as he gains confidence and fitness.
On Saturday, he showed why Aston Villa fans believe they had the best of the January swap deal that saw Carew arrive in Birmingham in exchange for Milan Baros; scoring a goal, earning a yellow card for his celebrations after jumping a barrier and then almost snatching a late winner with a sharp shot on the turn that was saved well.
It was easy to understand why a satisfied grin spread across the face of the Villa manager, Martin O'Neill. "In this day and age there are rules, but you work all week to score a goal," said O'Neill. "Probably, in three years' time, you'll get four months in prison for celebrating. He's been exceptional for us since he's come in and when he's properly fit he'll be a great player for us."
But O'Neill was disappointed with his improving team's second-half performance. "I thought we created the better chances, but we were beaten in the last two games away from home, when we played much better. It was a non-event, really, and that was disappointing. I'm a bit frustrated, but whether we did enough to win was debatable."
Carew, who has scored goals and terrified defences on a consistent basis throughout his nomadic career in five previous countries - Norway, Spain, Italy, Turkey and France, playing for Rosenborg, Valencia, Roma, Besiktas and Lyon - has now scored twice in the Premiership. Many more goals are in prospect, to judge from his eye for a chance in this contest.
Carew opened the scoring after 21 minutes just seconds after the referee, Lee Mason, had accidentally impeded the progress of the elegant Fulham schemer Alexei Smertin, an incident that led to the Villa captain Gareth Barry taking possession and stroking an immediate through pass to Carew, who poked a low shot swiftly past Antti Niemi. It was a natural goal-scorer's goal.
The Fulham manager, Chris Coleman, appreciated Carew's finishing skill, but complained afterwards that the game should have stopped when Barry and Smertin became entangled before the referee became inadvertently involved.
"To be honest, I think it's one of those things," said Coleman, in his matter-of-fact way. "The referee can't see behind him and the ball could have fallen anywhere else. Is it bad positioning? I don't think so. Having said that, there was a free-kick right before that and we didn't get it... "
Luckily for Fulham, and perhaps the referee, they equalised 78 seconds later when Franck Queudrue fired in an angled free-kick from the right and Carlos Bocanegra took advantage of a dozing defence to head in easily. Fulham had further chances, but, like Villa, never convinced they were good enough to take all three points. Carew, however, almost did.
Goals: Carew (21) 0-1; Bocanegra (23) 1-1.
Fulham (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Pearce, Bocanegra, Queudrue; Smertin, Davies, Brown, Diop (Routledge, 64); Radzinski (Helguson, 71), McBride (John, 80). Substitutes not used: Lastuvka (gk), Dempsey.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Sorensen; Bardsley, Mellberg, Laursen (Cahill, 56), Bouma; Maloney (Agbonlahor, 67), Petrov, McCann, Barry; Carew, Young. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Davis, Hughes.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).
Booked: Aston Villa Carew, McCann.
Man of the match: Carew.
l Luke Moore, the Villa striker, has rejected the chance to go out on loan. He wants to fight to regain the first-team place he lost after shoulder surgery.