So Villa started their Premier League campaign under Alex McLeish with somewhat of bore draw but a decent point against a fitter Fulham side who have been playing Europa League football for some time now.
Alex McLeish lined up with an attacking looking side and it was good to see some risks being taken but a suggested fluid 3 of N’Zogbia, Agbonlahor and Heskey supporting Bent never really looked like working.
Fabian Delph earned a starting place and was Villa’s top performer in the slow opening exhanges, pipping Jean Makoun to a place in the XI.
After an understandably cagey start Fulham had the best chance early on, falling to their new signing John Arne Riise, though the former Liverpool man could only blaze over with his ferocious left-foot from inside the box on the left.
Villa’s best chance of the opening exchanges came after 20 minutes when Heskey latched on to a long ball from Dunne but his attempt to lob the keeper was tame and straight at Scwartzer. That effort would prove to be Villa’s only shot on target in the entire match, with Bent a subdued and lonely figure upfront for much of the game.
The England striker did however have a goal chalked off, correctly for offside after being put through by Heskey.
Collins should have done better from a header as Villa started to get on top of the hosts before a long range effort from Petrov flew just over.
Given made his first decent save late in the second half from former Blue Andy Johnson before Damien Duff fizzed an effort over on the brink of half time, while Gabby Agbonlahor was booked for dissent.
Some nice touches from Delph in midfield was certainly a highlight and Villa looked decent if uninspiring, pipping Fulham for possession and pass accuracy in the opening 45.
The second half was all change. The hosts came out firing and should have taken the lead when Bobby Zamora found himself unmarked in the 6-yard box. A good reaction stop from Given was the new signings first involvement of many at the beginning of the second period.
Zamora had another header at the back post kept out by Given and while the new keeper was impressing, N’Zogbia looked nervy at the other end and unusually hesitant when attacking. Certainly lacking some match sharpness and will get better so don’t worry too much.
Given thwarted Zamora yet again, this time coming out to save at the striker’s feet with his legs before the Fulham man was withdrawn, along with N’Zogbia who was replaced by Albrighton.
A rare foray forward from the solid Stephen Warnock nearly saw the left-back pick out Bent with a great ball, only for Schwarzer to intercept in the nick of time.
The introduction of Albrighton certainly improved matters for Villa, combined by a tiring Fulham side, and the winger came closest to scoring for the visitors with the only shot of the second half for McLeish’s side. The 21-year-old blazed into the side netting from the edge of the box after a decent run and pull back from Bent.
The game petered out, which seemed pretty tricky from an already mellow affair with Heskey, Petrov and Dunne all picking up cautions late on.
The game fizzled out to end in a stalemate and a decent point for Villa to build on but a lot to do in an attacking sense. Given certainly a highlight while Warnock and Delph both impressed. Solid enough at the back and a clean sheet to boost was somewhat encouraging but Villa looked blunt and out of ideas in attack. 0-0
Possession: Fulham 54% – 46% Villa
Total Shots: Fulham 10 – 6 Villa
Shots on Target: Fulham 5 – 1 Villa
Pass Accuracy: Fulham 75% – 76% Villa
Aerials Won: Fulham 50% – 50% Villa
Fouls: Fulham 10 – 19 Villa
Dribbles Completed: Fulham 3 – 2 Villa
Tackles Won: Fulham 6 – 8 Villa
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