Bent landmark earns Villa draw
Long's opener for Baggies cancelled out by substitute's volley
Last Updated: 30/09/12 6:26pm
Darren Bent came off the bench to score the 150th league goal of his career to earn Aston Villa a 1-1 draw at home to West Bromwich Albion in a lively Midlands derby.
West Brom, who have enjoyed a bright start under new boss Steve Clarke, took the lead early in the second half through Shane Long only to be pegged back by Bent's finish on 80 minutes.
The first half was a predictably competitive contest, but lacking in width and quality, with clear-cut chances at a premium.
Perhaps the best opportunity fell to Long, who headed wide at the far post after just five minutes, while Brett Holman twice forced West Brom keeper Ben Foster into smart saves.
However, it took barely five minutes for the second half to spring into life with Long initially thinking he had put the Baggies ahead before officially getting on the scoresheet a minute later.
The Republic of Ireland striker's header was ruled out for offside, but just 60 seconds later, Long finished from six yards out after Ron Vlaar had failed to clear James Morrison's low cross.
Villa boss Paul Lambert brought on Bent for the ineffective Christian Benteke on 68 minutes and the decision was vindicated 10 minutes from time when the England striker clinically volleyed home after West Brom had failed to deal with a corner.
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 Villa striker Agbonlahor.
But Albion were the first to settle and Long missed a decent opportunity to put them ahead after six minutes.
A deep centre from Baggies skipper Chris Brunt was headed back across goal by Morrison to Long but he sent his header wide when he should have at least hit the target.
Albion were in the ascendancy in the early stages and debutant Goran Popov appealed in vain for a penalty after his cross appeared to strike the arm of Marcus Albrighton.
Villa started to settle and Albion keeper Ben Foster finger-tipped a long-range drive from Holman over the bar.
Home midfielder Fabian Delph became the first player to be yellow carded after 26 minutes for a challenge on Brunt.
Albion were forced into a change five minutes before the interval when Brunt sustained a leg injury blocking a cross from Matthew Lowton and was replaced by Graham Dorrans.
Foster made a fine save when he had to readjust to turn away a shot from Holman which took a deflection off Billy Jones.
Benteke then carved out an opening for himself after winning a touchline battle with Gareth McAuley but could not keep his shot down after cutting into the area.
Jones 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 only to have strayed a yard offside.
But the former Reading player made no mistake when breaking the deadlock 60 seconds later with his fourth goal of the season.
Morrison appeared to be just offside when he picked up the ball and ran towards the Villa box before sending a low cross into the danger area.
Centre-back Vlaar only got the slightest of touches on his attempted clearance and Long was positioned behind him to make no mistake.
Villa tried to retaliate and Joe Bennett was only just off target with a curling free-kick.
But Long should have done better when again well placed and he scuffed his shot through to Brad Guzan.
Lambert brought on Bent midway through the second half in place of Benteke and he quickly made an impact with an 80th-minute equaliser.
Ciaran Clark's volley from a Barry Bannan corner was blocked but Bent was perfectly placed to convert the loose ball.
Albion came close to regaining the lead when substitute Romelu Lukaku's shot deflected off Clark on to a post before the on-loan Chelsea striker also shot against the legs of Guzan.
|Aston Villa||Team Statistics||West Bromwich Albion|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||6|
|58.1||1st Half Poss.||41.9|
|54.7||2nd Half Poss.||45.3|