Aston Villa 0 Blackburn Rovers 1

Aston Villa's season of high expectancy ended as it began with an unexpected home defeat as Richard Dunne's own goal helped Blackburn win 1-0.

It was Villa's first home defeat in nine games, while Rovers extended their unbeaten away run to four matches.

In such a closely contested game when Blackburn defended magnificently, it became increasingly obvious that only a mistake would separate the two teams.

There could not have been a bigger contrast than that compared to their previous meeting in January which produced a ten-goal Carling Cup bonanza.

The big bonus for Blackburn in only their third away win of the season was the mature performance of teenager Grant Hanley on his debut. The young central defender was never over-awed by the occasion or the opposition and dealt with the threat of Gabby Agbonlahor and John Carew in commendable fashion.

Rovers, keen to make amends for their 6-4 defeat in January, drafted in the Algerian teenager Amine Linganzi for his first game in the Premiership.

He began in a lively fashion when Rovers found themselves under considerable pressure from a Villa side keen to finish the season on a high note.

The only real threat to Rovers occurred in the sixth minute when Paul Robinson displayed international form to parry a glancing header from James Collins following a Stewart Downing corner.

Villa, unchanged for the sixth successive match, found Rovers' defence in a resolute mood with skipper Christopher Samba and youngster Hanley both dominant in keeping the home side at bay.

It was Hanley who could have made a dream goalscoring debut as he went closest to giving Blackburn the lead in the first half with a header from a David Dunn corner which went just wide.

As the first half wound down Collins tested Robinson with a low drive which the keeper could only parry but Rovers' blanket defence quickly averted any further danger.

Robinson was again forced to display top form when he dived low to push away a James Milner free-kick three minutes before the break.

Generally,Villa's attacks were often far too complicated and this enabled Rovers to nullify any threat. As a result Rovers gained in confidence to take the second half to Villa but, in the 58th minute, their leading goalscorer Dunn was booked for diving in the penalty area.

Blackburn then had an escape when Milner failed to make contact with a Downing cross. Frustration crept into Villa's play and the response from manager Martin O'Neill was to make a double substitution, sending on Emile Heskey and Nathan Delfouneso for Agbonlahor and Carew.

But it was to no avail as, in the 84th minute, Dunne had the misfortune to head Junior Hoilett's left-wing cross into his own net.