Bent gives Villa 'extra buzz' but Dzeko fails to hit right notes

Aston Villa 1 Manchester City 0

The tale of the tape appeared pretty conclusive. Darren Bent, who may eventually cost Aston Villa £24m from Sunderland, settled the match with an archetypal, fox-in-the-box goal, while Edin Dzeko, Manchester City's new £27m striker, missed with a late header from his only scoring opportunity.

Bent modestly described his now customary debut flourish – which took him level with Chelsea's Didier Drogba and United's Wayne Rooney on 82 Premier League goals over the past five seasons – as a "tap-in". Two years earlier, after he fluffed an easier chance to win a match for Tottenham, his then manager famously complained that "my missus could've put that one in". Dzeko's chance was perhaps not in the Sandra Redknapp category, yet understandably he comes with great expectations.

If Bent's encapsulation of the tall, elegant Bosnian's performance as "decent" sounded like damning with faint praise, the logic of the match-winner's own compare-and-contrast verdict was fair. "It was always going to be a lot more difficult for him than me because he is new in this division whereas I've played in it a lot," he said. "He has good quality and showed some nice touches but you're always going to struggle against top centre-halves like [James] Collins and [Richard] Dunne."

In fact, forwards have been filling their boots against Gérard Houllier's defence. Although Dzeko demonstrated an impressive work ethic, it often led him into deep positions, making it hard to establish a rapport with Carlos Tevez, who himself started the match playing off the front. As a consequence, City, for all their dominance, created few genuine chances.

Brian Kidd, the former England coach who is Roberto Mancini's assistant at Eastlands, insisted that City would not have to wait until next season to get the best from Dzeko. "I don't think it'll take him many games at all. His touch, passing and control are all excellent and he links the play well. He's been superb in training, he's a team player and his English is very good.

"Obviously, it's a lot different to the Bundesliga. When I was at Portsmouth helping Paul Hart, he raved about Dzeko. Pompey played Wolfsburg in Europe and put a bid in but couldn't afford him. I believe he'll be a very good buy, but there's an adjustment to make to the Premier League and of course it takes time."

Therein lies City's dilemma. Teams need to grow, with new recruits allowed time to assimilate. However, their vast expenditure means every setback is tantamount to a crisis, and every goal conceded or chance spurned becomes a news event. Kidd, who is familiar with such pressures from his stint as No 2 at Old Trafford, denied that he was trying to take the heat off Mancini and his team by claiming the championship was "United's to lose" and that City's target was a top four place. "Not at all. They've been round the block with Sir Alex [Ferguson]. We certainly give them the respect they deserve. They've been there before. With our lads it's a new experience. But once you win something, it becomes intoxicating. You want more of it."

Prising Bent from Sunderland was intended to restore that feeling to the Villa dressing room. The investment reaped a swift dividend for manager Houllier, with the outstanding Collins detecting "an extra buzz about the place, even in the warm-up". The buzz became a cacophony when Bent, having scarcely touched the ball, followed up in anticipation that the City goalkeeper Joe Hart might parry Ashley Young's shot. When he did, an angled finish created an instant Villa cult hero.

Houllier, though, was focused on Bent's impact in the longer term, starting at Wigan tomorrow. "I thought we needed a striker, not only for six months but for the future," he said. "When I was at Liverpool I signed Emile Heskey and it made a difference; we started winning trophies. At Lyons I signed [the Brazilian striker] Fred and he made a difference as we won two titles. I would say Darren has finishing class. He loves the game, works hard and will improve. I looked at him and thought, 'Yes, this is what we need'."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links