A young Villa side played well in an entertaining encounter at Villa Park in front of a noisy capacity crowd against Manchester United..
Villa started the game with Barry Bannan and debutant Jonathon Hogg in the centre of midfield as the injury list just keeps on mounting.
Utd started the brighter of the 2 sides as Villa tried to find their feet. Early hints that it was going to be a bruising contest came when Ferdinand complained of being pushed in the back by Agbonlahor, returning from injury.
Villa began to pick it up a little as they got bodies forward and began working on the United defenders. However despite some super crossing, Villa were lacking their big men in the box, again due to injury.
Berbatov let Villa off the hook when he fired a left foot shot well wide after beating the Villa offside trap. Villa had 3 or four very good spells in the first half, but United finished the first 45 minutes with more possession.
Whatever Sir Alex said to his players at half time seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as Villa began to seriously control the game. Park kept finding himself being pick-pocketed by Albrighton, who was giving Evra a torrid time down the wing. Nani retaliated to a hard challenge by Warnock by trying to use a jump to mask his strike out with his arm. The winger was booked and this seemed to completely take him out of his game.
Sir Alex moved Park to the right and Nani to the left and it almost paid immediate dividends. Park slipped past Warnock and then got his cross around Dunne, but Warnock recovered in time to give Utd their first corner. Villa had 6 at this point.
Albrighton got onto the end of a Downing cross, but somehow, his header bounced a foot wide of the post. Albrighton was everywhere He headed the ball off the line from Ferdinand’s shot.
Fletcher headed a corner, but somehow didn’t score. The ball was blocked out wide, from a Carrick hit, Luke Young careened into Nani, the ref waved play on, but Utd’s attack was thwarted by Albrighton, who was fouled by Hernandez. Both Luke Young and Hernandez went into the book, while Fletcher had a gash on the face mopped up.
Villa hit the woodwork twice in about 4 minutes. First Collins’ header crashed the crossbar, then Agbonlahor saw a toe poke deflect against the foot of the post. The reds looked like an old heavyweight being pummeled by a newer faster boxer, and it was that speed that seemed to have undone the mighty reds.
Agbonlahor was sent on a long chase with Evra. The Villa striker certainly had the pace and won the ball, he looked up and squared a nice pass in front of Ashley Young. Young was lining up his shot when Wes Brown bundled into him. After a slight hesitation, the ref pointed to the spot. Villa fans are still puzzled over the fact that referees have failed to do their duty in two straight matches with Utd. It was a 100 percent a scoring opportunity. Brown escaped with a yellow card.
Young smashed his penalty slightly left of centre for 1-0
United had intended to sub 2 strikers before the goal. They made their change at kick off. They immediately raised their game and attacked Villa, but not long after Villa hit them on a perfect Villa counter. Albrighton started the move. He took the ball off team-mate Hogg, released Downing down the left. Downing exchanged passes with Young, and crossed a sweet ball that Albrighton thumped home after running 70 yds down field.
Villa must have felt it was their day, but United had other ideas. The home teams’ recent injuries played a major factor in the next few minutes. Agbonlahor, was undoubtedly tired and hurt. He had to come off and Delfoneso came on. United were now able to move Vidic forward more adventurously. The two subs were just getting settled into the game.
The reds played with a new sense of urgency. They started winning corners. They finally had their first shot on target on the 80th minute. Machedo notched a super strike just a moment later and they were back in the game.
Nani finally hit a great cross 4 minutes later and Vidic unmarked on the far post crouched down and headed the equalizer.
The unusually subdued Man Utd fans suddenly found their voice for the first time in the game and the atmosphere level was raised.
Houllier threw on youngsters Lichaj and Herd to shore up the midfield. Villa finally began to fight out of their own half in the final minute of injury time. A promising move by Lichaj was called up by the ref, who decided enough was enough.