WHILE Irish eyes were expected to focus on Robbie Keane and Darron Gibson in their first outings in new jerseys yesterday, two other Irishmen stole the show as Everton and Aston Villa ended 1-1 at Villa Park.
With Giovanni Trapattoni at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea entertained Sunderland, Stephen Ireland had one of his best games in midfield for the home side. But their star performer was recalled keeper Shay Given who had been sidelined for six weeks with a hamstring injury. He justified his instant return to action in place of Brad Guzan with several fine saves.
Gibson played all but the final six minutes for Everton, but Keane may be disappointed that he spent most of the game on the bench, only coming on for the final ten minutes.
By then, the game was decided, Victor Anichebe rescuing a point for Everton. Villa striker Darren Bent's seventh goal of the campaign had broken the deadlock but the Toffees deserved their equaliser.
Villa were the first to threaten after Bent made a probing run towards the Everton box and was brought down by John Heitinga. Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov's 25 yard free-kick contained plenty of power and was fisted away by the diving Tim Howard. Villa were the more purposeful in the early stages and Marc Albrighton's shot was blocked after Alan Hutton had teed up an opportunity. Everton came more into the game and Gibson's flighted pass picked out a run into the Villa area from Tim Cahill but his first touch let him down.
Given made an excellent save away to his left to keep out a Louis Saha glancing header from a Leighton Baines free-kick. He then had to turn aside a misdirected header from his own defender Stephen Warnock from a Royston Drenthe centre.
And Given made his third fine save of the game at the start of the second period after Collins brought down Drenthe. Baines' curling free-kick found Fellaini unmarked at the far post and his powerful header was blocked by the Irish keeper.
Sunday Indo Sport