Aston Villa 1 - 0 Man City

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Aston Villa 1 - 0 Man City

Post  nirvana on Sun Jan 23, 2011 5:53 am

Aston Villa 1 - 0 Man City
Darren Bent
Darren Bent marked his Aston Villa debut with a typical poacher's goal

By Phil McNulty
BBC Sport at Villa Park

Darren Bent demonstrated why Gerard Houllier was happy to make him Aston Villa's 24m record buy as he marked his debut with the crucial winner against Manchester City.

Bent concluded an acrimonious week in the aftermath of his departure from Sunderland in style when he turned in the early close-range finish that eased Villa's relegation fears and put a dent in Manchester City's hopes of applying pressure to the Premier League front-runners.

In what was a characteristic Bent display, he made only an occasional impact - but proved once again in front of England coach Fabio Capello that he is one of the most reliable marksmen in the domestic game.

And his strike was the highlight of a Villa performance that will have provided huge satisfaction for Houllier, who sees Bent as the symbol of his serious rebuilding of the squad he inherited from Martin O'Neill.

Bent won the 51m battle of the strikers with Manchester City's Edin Dzeko, the other big January transfer window purchase, although he showed enough in flashes to make Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini believe he will provide a return on his 27m investment.

That's got to be the fifth game I've seen this season where City haven't been able to break down a 10-man defence.


Mancini, however, will be bitterly disappointed at City's failure to take anything against a Villa side they thrashed at Eastlands only a few weeks ago.

City only played on Villa's nerves late on, when Ciaran Clark deflected Nigel de Jong's shot on to a post and Dzeko headed inches wide at the far post from substitute Adam Johnson's cross.

Mancini's side only showed enough ambition when it was too late and by then battle lines were drawn as James Collins and former City captain Richard Dunne fought a magnificent rearguard action at the heart of Villa's defence.

Bent eased himself into the action for 18 minutes before making the decisive contribution Houllier hopes will become a trademark of his Aston Villa era. He was first to react when City keeper Joe Hart pushed Ashley Young's shot in his direction, turning home a finish from an acute angle as Villa Park celebrated the arrival of a new hero.

City's response was measured, a little too measured at times, but Villa keeper Brad Friedel needed to be alert to turn Vincent Kompany's header to safety and Gareth Barry was only inches away with a glancing header from Jerome Boateng's cross at the Holte End.

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Houllier hails spirit on 'special' day

In an entertaining encounter Hart also needed to show secure handling to hold on to stinging drives from Young and Stewart Downing as half-time approached.

Little had been seen of Dzeko, but enough to suggest he will be a real force once he becomes accustomed to the requirements of the Premier League. He threatened Villa just after the interval with a twisting header from Aleksandar Kolarov's corner, but he failed to find the target.

City boss Mancini felt the need to make a positive change after 56 minutes when he sent on Johnson for Barry, who received a predictably hostile send-off from the Villa supporters who once idolised him.

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Bent 'over the moon' with debut goal

It was Villa, however, who posted the next moment of danger with another long-range effort from Young, forcing Hart - who had been a mixed bag throughout - to dive low to his right to save as Houllier's side continued to perform in a most encouraging fashion.

City, predictably, subjected Villa to a sustained spell of pressure as the clock ticked down - and the home team hada double escape with eight minutes left. De Jong's shot was unwittingly deflected on to his own post by Clark and then Dzeko headed Johnson's cross wide at the far post when he should have restored equality.

It was the final scare for Villa as their supporters celebrated a crucial three points and a new idol in Bent, as referee Howard Webb blew the final whistle.

Live text and stats

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Barclays Premier League
Home Team Score Away Team Time
Aston Villa 1-0 Man City FT
(HT 1-0)

* Bent 18

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