Aston Villa 1 - 1 West Brom: Benched Bent to Villa’s rescue
RECORD signing Darren Bent came off the bench to rescue a point for Aston Villa in a pulsating Midlands derby.
Aston Villa - Bent (80)
West Brom - Long (51)
Referee: A Taylor
Bent was axed by Villa manager Paul Lambert with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke preferred up front. But he had only been on the pitch for 11 minutes when he scored the equaliser, cancelling out Shane Long’s opener to give Villa a deserved share of the points.
Long looked as if he had settled the issue, returning to the ground where he suffered a knee ligament injury last season before Bent’s late intervention.
The striker said: “Obviously it would have been nice to play from the start but I managed to score the goal to get a point. It’s been a difficult couple of weeks, losing the captaincy first off then finding out I wasn’t playing today.
“The start of the season’s been up and down. Today we showed signs that we are heading in the right direction and we’ve all got faith in the manager.”
A point maintained Albion’s fine start to the campaign – 11 points from six games – but Villa will also take plenty of encouragement from the performance of their new-look side. Benteke was only inches away from connecting with an early dipping cross from Agbonlahor although Albion were the first to settle with Long missing a chance after six minutes.
A deep centre from Baggies skipper Chris Brunt was headed back across goal by James Morrison to Long but he sent his header wide. Albion were in the ascendancy in the early stages and debutant Goran Popov appealed for a penalty after his cross appeared to strike the arm of Marcus Albrighton. Villa then began to settle and keeper Ben Foster finger-tipped a long-range drive from Brett Holman over the bar.
Home midfielder Fabian Delph was the first player to be yellow carded after 26 minutes while Albion were forced into a change five minutes before the interval when the injured Brunt was replaced by Graham Dorrans.
Albion’s Foster made another fine save turning away a deflected shot from Holman while Benteke carved out an opening but could not keep his shot down. Jones then became the second Albion player to hobble off on the stroke of half-time with a knee injury and he was replaced by Gabriel Tamas.
Long had the ball in the net five minutes into the second period but was correctly flagged offside but he made no mistake when breaking the deadlock 60 seconds later, firing home his fourth goal of the season following a poor attempted clearance by Ron Vlaar.
Villa tried to retaliate and Joe Bennett was only just off target with a curling free-kick before Long scuffed his shot when well placed.
Lambert brought on Bent mid-way through the second half in place of Benteke and he quickly made an impact, slotting home the equaliser following Ciaran Clark’s blocked volley.
Albion then came close to regaining the lead when substitute Romelu Lukaku’s shot deflected off Clark on to a post while the on loan Chelsea striker also shot against the legs of keeper Guzan.
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