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There Hugo ... Great Escape gets Rod nod.

Byline: Dean Jones

Aston Villa 1 Fulham 2 THREE years ago Hugo Rodallega saved Wigan Athletic from the drop on the final day of the season.

And with four minutes left on the clock at Villa Park yesterday his headed goal for Fulham gave his current employers hope of playing out remarkable survival act too.

Until now it had been a season to forget for the Colombian striker.

He had made just two league starts and things had got so bad under former boss Rene Meulensteen that he cried when he was substituted in a home FA Cup defeat by Sheffield United.

But last night he was starting to look on the bright side of life again.

Brought on as a half-time substitute he rose to steer home a Lewis Holtby cross and send the 3,000 away fans into ecstasy. They believe Fulham could still stay up.

The Lilywhites are off the bottom of the division and within five points of 17th-placed Norwich, who they face at Craven Cottage next week.

Repeat Win that one and many of their fans will be forecasting a repeat of their 2008 Great Escape, when Danny Murphy kept them up on the last day.

Boss Felix Magath took his side to the Midlands knowing he had a chance to take advantage of an unfortunate situation.

Star-striker Christian Benteke suffered an Achilles injury that has ruled him out for up to six months, and Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph were missing too.

Fulham beat Villa in December and though they had hope of repeating the feat, the first half was cagey.

Teenager Cauley Woodrow put an early chance over the bar while Leandro Bacuna forced a great save out of David Stockdale.

Fulham's introduction of Ashkan Dejagah and Rodallega at the break gave them a more dangerous look.

It is 17 years since Rodney McAree scored a goal against Carlisle that kept Fulham in the Football League and this current side were looking for a hero of their own.

Kieran Richardson smashed home the opener with his left foot on 61 minutes after sub Dejagah had cut inside and teed him up.

The goal spurred Villa into life. They know what it is like to be in the sort of desperate situation Fulham find themselves in.

They survived a dogfight of their own last term, but showed little sympathy and Grant Holt was able to score with a free header from a Marc Albrighton header.

Paul Lambert admitted before this clash that he has been sleeping better since those stressful days fighting relegation.

But it is unlikely that the Villa boss got too much kip last night as Fulham ended up nicking the points.

Matt Lowton had already made an incredible goal-line stop to deny Holtby when Fulham put together a move as the game moved into its final five minutes.

Holtby cut in from the flank, curled in a cross and Rodallega got a good connection with his head to steer the ball past keeper Brad Guzan.

Fulham's fans went berserk. But the Villa fans were furious - accusing their team of failing to produce the kind of performance that would have earned them three points and guaranteed safety.

Lambert's men should have enough but Fulham still have plenty of work to do to remain in this division next season.

SHINER Rodallega Subsitute grabbed a priceless goal with four minutes left to give Fulham a Premier League lifeline VILLA: Guzan 6 - *LOWTON 7, Vlaar 5, Baker 5, Bertrand 6 - Westwood 6, Bennett 5 (Tonev, 66mins, 6), Bacuna 6, Albrighton 7 (Bowery, 90mins) - Weimann 6, Holt 6. FULHAM: Stockdale 7 - Heitinga 6 (Riise, 83mins), Hangeland 6, Amorebieta 6 - Richardson 7, Diarra 7, Riether 7 - Holtby 7, Sidwell 6, Kasami 5 (Dejagah, 46mins, 8) - Woodrow 6 (*RODALLEGA, 46mins, 8). REFEREE: M. Oliver 6.

SHOCKER Holtby Was denied by an amazing Matt Lowton goalline clearance - but will still be asking how on earth he did not score


FUL VALUE: Rodallega is Fulham hero
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 6, 2014
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