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Goodison Park | 2nd April 2011 15:00

Everton v Aston Villa

The most frequently played fixture in the history of English top flight football served up a thrilling contest  - but no winner.

Everton secured a share of the spoils courtesy of the first penalty awarded to the Blues this term - Leighton Baines rifling into the net after Phil Jagielka had been fouled.

It was no less than the home side deserved on an afternoon of drama and controversy. Having gone ahead to a Leon Osman strike, a second-half brace from Villa's Darren Bent turned the game on its head.

But it was the timing of the visitors' second goal which incensed the home side - coming seconds after Jermaine Beckford appeared to have scored a perfectly good goal at the other end.

The assistant referee ruled the striker's effort had not crossed the line and Villa pounced with a direct counter.

The point for Everton was all the more deserved because it came on an afternoon when David Moyes was deprived of a succession of key first-team players. There was no Arteta, Cahill, Fellaini, Anichebe, Saha or Rodwell - leaving Moyes with Hobson's Choice in terms of the senior players available to him.

But those 11 - supplemented by the second half arrival of youngsters Magaye Gueye and Apostolos Vellios - showed more than enough guile, endeavour and quality to have taken all three points from this contest.

Osssie celebrates his first half strike

Indeed, but for the predatory instincts of the impressive Bent, a second consecutive home win would have been a formality.

Everton had the better of the opening skirmishes and the visitors had to be thankful to a great finger-tip save from Brad Friedel to Jermaine Beckford in the ninth minute.

A superb block from Tony Hibbert, making his first appearance as he began his second decade as an Everton first team player, denied Nigel Reo-Coker as the half hour mark approached.

Two yellow cards in quick succession for John Heitinga and Phil Jagielka illustrated the growing influence the away side were having on proceedings.

The opening goal came seven minutes before the break - and put Villa's growing resolve under the closest scrutiny.

Diniyar Bilyaletedinov dispossessed Kyle Walker in the Villa half and fed the ball to Osman down the inside left. He skipped into the box and slid the ball beyond Friedel from 10 yards.

But to dampen the mood inside the sun-drenhced Goodison, as half-time approached Beckford pulled up and signalled to the bench in a manner which suggested it was worthy of serious concern.

The ex-Leeds man was able to recover in order to come out after the break - but it was the striker on the opposite side who had the immediate impact after the interval.

Bent equalises for Villa

Bent rifled the ball into the roof of the net to conclude a flowing move on 46 minutes.

Minutes later and Coleman's afternoon was brought to an end, replaced by summer signing Gueye for his first appearance in the Premier League.

With 30 minutes remaining, Villa were grateful to Friedel for a point-blank stop to deny John Heitinga following a Gueye corner. It gave the home side hope as they searched for a second goal.

The game turned on its head in the space of 30 seconds midway through the second period. At one end, Beckford burst through to latch on to a cute pass from Gueye and rifled a shot beyond Friedel. It cannoned down off the underside of the crossbar but as Beckford raised his arms in celebration the assistant referee dismissed claims the ball had crossed the line.

Seconds later and Friedel launched the ball forwards. With Everton flat-footed, the ball found its way to Bent, who won the race with Sylvain Distin to guide a shot beyond the advancing Tim Howard.



As Villa celebrated, the Everton coaching staff remonstrated with the officials over the goal that had not been given at the other end.

Osman missed a gilt-edged chance following a neat free-kick move as the contest entered the final 15 minutes. It left many inside Goodison Park scratching their heads, wondering how he had not netted and if an equaliser would materialise.

But it did, coming shortly after Distin was sacrificed in order to accomodate the arrival of young Greek striker Vellios - the second Premier League debutante of the afternoon for the Toffees. The goal came two minutes later via the penalty spot.

Jagielka was been felled in the area by Jean Makoun and Baines fired home confidently from the spot.

But could a winner be mustered? Everton did their very best, with an injury-time effort from Vellios ensuring the tension was cranked up - but the release of a goal celebration was not forthcoming.

VillaBent is chaperoned by Hibbert and Neville

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