Everton need official help to counter Bent double

Everton 2 Aston Villa 2
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The Independent Football

This was a happy hunting ground for Gérard Houllier when he was Liverpool's manager and he nearly secured a precious victory to bolster Aston Villa's fight against relegation, only to see his side hand Everton their first penalty of the season, a debatable one, which was converted by Leighton Baines seven minutes from time.

The visitors trailed to Leon Osman's first-half strike but hit back through two from Darren Bent. However, they were undone by when Phil Jagielka fell after barely brushing against Jean Makoun's leg and Baines, who had endured a difficult afternoon up against Stewart Downing, drove the spot-kick past Brad Friedel. "The players said it was soft," said Houllier.

Everton felt aggrieved when Jermaine Beckford struck a venomous shot moments before Bent's second goal that crashed against the underside of the bar and appeared to cross the line. "That was a poor decision," said Everton manager David Moyes

A glance at the team-sheets made you wonder why Villa, rather than Everton, are in trouble. A side boasting three England internationals – Bent, Ashley Young and Downing – was backed up by £24m worthof talent on the bench.

In contrast, Everton had six outfield substitutes without a Premier League appearance between them. However, they made light of their many absentees with some bright football. Villa's right-back Kyle Walker was spared after his intended backpass fell to Beckford and Friedel saved well to his right. Walker's luck ran out, however, when Dimitar Bilyaletdinov robbed him after 37 minutes. The Russian fed the ball to Osman whose shot had too much on it for Friedel.

Houllier's half-time team talk clearly had some effect as they drew level two minutes after the restart. A good move ended with Nigel Reo-Coker finding Downing and he ran at Baines before squaring low and precisely to Bent, who slotted home.

Beckford thought he restored Everton's lead after 68 minutes but instead play was waved on by referee Mike Jones and Ashley Young collected Friedel's punt, fed Bent, who cushioned a shot effortlessly past Tim Howard to put Villa in front.

Johnny Heitinga and Osman both spurned inviting chances and Everton, in the end, were grateful for a bit off assistance from the official.

Attendance: 37,619

Referee: Mike Jones

Man of the match: Downing

Match rating: 8/10