Robbie Keane made a low key debut and fans had to wait until the second half for any goal action, with Landon Donovan assisting the equalizer.BIRMINGHAM -- Aston Villa went 12 games unbeaten against Everton, drawing 1-1 with the Merseyside outfit after a heated second half.
A drab first 45 minutes saw Shay Given pull off two outstanding saves to keep the game even, with the second an almost own goal from Stephen Warnock who headed clumsily towards his own net from short distance.
Goals from Darren Bent and Victor Anichebe, however, rewarded the patient fans in the second period in a half that that become pretty heated, but failed to see a winner.
Robbie Keane was denied his Villa starting debut after being placed among the substitutes. Meanwhile, despite Alex McLeish’s warning to Given about not having a guaranteed place in the team once fit, the Irishman was handed his first start after recovering from his hamstring injury. Also, Gabby Agbonlahor started up top with Darren Bent in the absence of the injured Emile Heskey.
Everton was able to hand its own new player, Darron Gibson, his first start after completing his move from Manchester United on Friday. Shane Duffy made his first appearance in the Everton starting XI coming in for the injured Sylvain Distin at the back.
Tim Howard was the first of the two goalkeepers to be tested in the game following a clumsy challenge by John Heitinga on Darren Bent from 25 yards out. Stiliyan Petrov was the man to take the subsequent free kick and forced the American to punch out his effort to safety.
It was Given’s time to keep the game scoreless after a whipped in free kick from Leighton Baines found the head of Frenchman Louis Saha who was able to nod the ball low at goal, but the Irish keeper’s reflexes helped prevent an opener from Everton.
A very close moment for Stephen Warnock was brilliantly averted by Given after a dangerous cross from Royston Drenthe was headed towards the ‘keeper’s bottom corner by the fullback, but the Irishman saved magnificently to spare any blushes.
Villa kept trying to push before the break came calling and Agbonlahor had a worthwhile shot from around 30 yards out that got a save and a corner out of Howard at the American’s far post, but in truth the home side had not impressed and left its fans disappointed as both teams went into their dressing rooms at halftime with the scoreline as it had started.
After the break Villa started with much more of an attacking impetus than it had shown in the first and awarded the patient fans with the opening goal thanks to front-man Bent. Hutton sailed down to the by-line to pop the ball into the area, only for Stephen Ireland to grab hold of the pass and place the ball into the path of the England international, whp earned a poacher’s strike past Howard.
However, the lead didn’t last long as Everton finally made a chance stick thanks to a wonderful effort from substitute Anichebe. A defense splitting ball from Donovan allow the striker to beat the offside trap by the skin of his teeth, with Warnock allowing the attacker to slip past and partially round Given before slotting the ball past the Irishman.
Both sides pushed till the end, but each saw little from their efforts, with Anichebe going closest out of the two.