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Dream start for Bent


Darren Bent celebrates after scoring on his debut for Aston Villa against Manchester City at Villa Park yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Darren Bent celebrates after scoring on his debut for Aston Villa against Manchester City at Villa Park yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Darren Bent celebrates after scoring on his debut for Aston Villa against Manchester City at Villa Park yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Perhaps Manchester City need to spend a bit more money. Darren Bent may not be everyone's idea of a £24m player, but he got his Aston Villa career off to a dream start with a goal after 18 minutes that earned three precious points for Gerard Houllier's strugglers and dashed the visitors' hopes of returning to joint top with Manchester United.

Bent did not do an awful lot more than score the winner, and neither were Villa transformed into an attacking force to be reckoned with by his arrival, although this was a game they might not have won a week ago.

Their confidence was visibly lifted, even if they did have to endure a siege situation in the final 10 minutes when City piled on the pressure but kept inventing new ways to miss the target. The equaliser never came, Edin Dzeko had a more disappointing afternoon than on his debut a week ago, and City were far less inventive and incisive than they had been against Wolves.

City only had themselves to blame for Bent's opening goal. They had just broken up a Villa attack and Kolo Toure had all the time in the world to weigh up his options with no one anywhere near him in the centre of his own half.

From that position he executed an extremely poor pass that immediately put David Silva under pressure on halfway, Stewart Downing regained possession and swiftly moved the ball forward, and when Joe Hart could only palm out Ashley Young's low curling shot, the man of the moment was on hand to tuck away the loose ball.

Not the greatest goal Bent will ever score, but an ideal way to start life as Villa's record signing.

Brad Friedel made a good stop from a Vincent Kompany header to prevent City equalising almost immediately from an Aleksandar Kolarov corner. The left-back was City's liveliest attacking player in the first half, which perhaps tells its own story, although as the interval approached the visitors were putting Friedel's goal under all the pressure, with Villa increasingly penned in their own half.

Edin Dzeko, last week's big-money signing, is yet to open his goal account for City and was uanable to reach Kolarov's cross from the left after Yaya Toure had split open the Villa defence. The Bosnian unselfishly tried to set up Carlos Tevez a few minutes later, only for James Collins to make an important intervention, and Gareth Barry -- booed throughout -- was close with a header from Jerome Boateng's cross.

Villa's interval lead was therefore by courtesy of their only decent attempt of the first half, although that is exactly why clubs spend fortunes on strikers who can make the most of limited chances. At least the home side managed to give Hart something to think about just before the break, when he was required to stop long shots from Young and Downing. Both efforts were well struck, but both went much too close to the goalkeeper.

Dzeko headed narrowly over from a corner early in the second half before Roberto Mancini put the labouring Barry out of his misery, replacing him with Adam Johnson. In what struck the amused crowd as adding insult to injury, Barry had just spoiled a Yaya Toure run by straying offside before receiving the pass, and turned to see a flag raised on one side of the pitch and his number being held up on the other.

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City were again doing most of the attacking yet Villa managed to create a few half-chances around the hour mark. First a back-pass from Kompany forced an error from Hart, but Marc Albrighton could not shoot quickly enough when an attempted clearance came straight to him. Young was unlucky with a cross that rolled across the face of goal and a shot that brought a diving save from Hart, before Albrighton squandered a promising position by overhitting a first-time cross with Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor waiting un-marked in the middle.

In the closing stages Nigel de Jong saw a piledriving shot deflected on to a post, Kompany saw a similar effort diverted to safety by Carlos Cuellar, and just when Johnson sent over a cross that looked perfect for Dzeko, the striker sent his header the wrong side of the post. It was a day to remember for the new big spenders, one to forget for the old ones.


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