By William Wood | In Match Reports - Away Games
Manchester City and Aston Villa shared the spoils as they fought out a 1-1 draw at Villa Park, a result which lifts Mark Hughes’ men up to fourth with a game in hand.
Much of the pre-match talk revolved around two players and former captains in particular – Gareth Barry who joined the Eastlanders and Richard Dunne who went the other way – and the game on offer lived up to expectations if not goals.
There was a scare early on when right-back Pablo Zabaleta almost turned a Villa cross into his own goal, though Shay Given’s lightning-quick reactions kept his side level.
Martin O’Neill had obviously done his homework and identified City’s counter-attack as the most successful part of their play of late, and as such the Villa players hounded down their opponents, giving them little time on the ball.
Even Dunne was getting in on the act, dispossessing Carlos Tevez and skipping past him, an act that drew loud cheers from the home crowd.
The left channel was still proving productive for City as man-of-the-moment Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bridge linked up effectively, but from the latter’s cut-back the Villa defence were on hand to clear the danger.
And if Dunne’s match-up with his former employers couldn’t get any better within the opening 15 minutes, it was from his header that Villa seized the lead.
Stephen Warnock floated in a corner and Dunne predictably rose above Barry to direct the ball beyond Given and hand his new side a one goal advantage, though he quelled his celebrations out of respect for the travelling support.
City were being restricted to pot-shots, with Tevez only forcing Brad Friedel to work from one of his three efforts, though Emmanuel Adebayor had the American scrambling with a fine header which was tipped just over.
Villa were looking comfortable that aside, however, and James Milner’s powerful drive across goal could have made it 2-0 had one of the advancing attackers made even the slightest of connections with 50 minutes on the clock.
Similarly, Dunne was causing problems from set-pieces once again as he lost his marker to head just wide, leaving Hughes furious on the touchline.
Stephen Ireland was brought on in an attempt to unlock a stern Villa defence and his impact was instant. Having already won numerous corners for City, it was from the Irishman’s pass that Adebayor was set free and the Togo international picked out Bellamy who added the extras with a strike into the back of the net.
City threatened to grab a second as the game reached its conclusion but as it was, both sides’ defences proved more efficient at their jobs than both sets of attackers, and O’Neill and Hughes had to content themselves with a point apiece in an otherwise entertaining clash