Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 0

Bargain Bent, that’s what they will call him. Darren Bent, who scored on his debut for Charlton and Sunderland, did it again on Saturday night, Aston Villa’s £24 million signing providing his new side with their first league win of the year and kicking sand in the faces of

Manchester City’s Middle Eastern owners. He might have been £3 million cheaper than Edin Dzeko, but for Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner and the club’s supporters he is ten times as valuable.

Roberto Mancini was left looking like a man who had lobbed a hand grenade and then remembered he had forgotten to pull out the pin. The

Manchester City manager’s star £27 million signing Dzeko was largely anonymous until the final five minutes, when he took the opportunity to save the day and keep his side in touch of Manchester United, and nodded it wide from five yards.

Gerard Houllier had promised a different game from the last meeting between these teams, a 4-0 destruction Eastlands last month, and he was right. That miserable afternoon represented Villa hitting rock bottom.

Since then Houllier has taken a gang of white-eyed deserters and turned them into a brigade of freedom fighters. Villa Park crackled as they defended their home, the bandit Bent lighting the beacons and setting the stands ablaze. 1Though they remain three points outside the relegation zone, Villa finally have reason to believe. This was a coherent performance, Stiliyan Petrov guarding the back four like a dobermann, supported by

Ashley Young and Stewart Downing in centre of midfield, a bold move on the face of it but a shrewd decision given that while the pair’s natural inclination is to attack, both are industrious defenders.

As disappointing as this season has been for Houllier’s side, Villa have never lacked for chances. Conversion has been the problem, but with Bent hovering on the shoulders of either Kolo Toure or Vincent Kompany, looking for a sly ball off the orange boots of Young and

Downing, or a cross from Marc Albrighton and Gabby Agbonlahor, there was optimism about their play.

Though not as fluid with the ball as City in the centre of the field – not by a long shot – Villa were brimming with intent, quicker to

move for the ball and more eager to do something with it, not to mention taking advantage of the fact Nigel De Jong was presumably watching his step around Howard Webb, considering the last time he met the referee was in Johannesburg, and the Dutch defender was impaling Xabi Alonso on his studs in the final of the World Cup.

It was that urgency which unsettled City. Agbonlahor muscled David Silva off the ball on the left sideline and looked inside to Young, who sneaked a shot between Kompany and Kolo Toure.

Though it was not the sharpest effort Joe Hart, moving sluggishly across his goal, could do no more than palm away. Bent, lurking on Aleksandar Kolarov’s shoulder, exploded forward, veins pumping ice as Villa Park screeched in expectation, earning himself 37,815 worshipers as he slid the ball in.

Understandably the home support were beside themselves as Bent was surrounded by his new team-mates, and they basked in the moment (there have been few opportunities to do so in recent weeks), giving Gareth

Barry a jeer for good measure when he had the audacity to touch the ball, but their celebrations could have been cut short when Kompany’s header arrowed towards the roof of Villa’s net minutes later, just tipped over the bar by Friedel.

It was a warning sign that Villa had best not get carried away. The visiting side had already earned the right to go ahead through Tevez, a corner in the 17th minute whipping past Friedel to where the

Argentine was waiting at the far post, but the ball was moving fast and it slipped under Tevez’s foot. Barry also came too close for comfort, his header zipping a whisker wide of Friedel’s post with the American goalkeeper beaten.

Attacking the Holte End in the second half, Villa had opportunities to exert further pressure, Albrighton wasting a chance to cross.

Mancini, glowering from his technical area, waved his leather gloves towards the other end, but only Jerome Boateng received the message, his low shot squirting through to Friedel, who saved without knowing much about it.

With time running out, City pressed again. De Jong’s shot took a heavy deflection off Clark and hit the post, then Dzeko rose above

Cuellar for to meet a cross from Adam Johnson, but the striker is no party pooper. This was Bent’s night, and his new supporters blew the roof off in celebration of it.

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