Houllier finds the humour in Villa's relegation battle

Everton 2 Aston Villa 2
Click to follow
The Independent Football

He may be under fire from Aston Villa supporters, but Gérard Houllier enjoys his visits to Merseyside. Certainly to Goodison Park, where his record as Liverpool manager was four wins and two draws, from six games.

He remains a close friend of Everton manager David Moyes, although that may have been put to the test had Everton not snatched a controversial, if deserved, equaliser in Saturday's entertaining draw.

Houllier even managed to elicit a giggle from the Scot during the game's pivotal moment in the 68th minute, which can be no easy task. Jermaine Beckford's shot crashed against Brad Friedel's bar and appeared to cross the line, but it failed to impress referee Mike Jones. Villa broke and Ashley Young found Darren Bent, who cushioned a shot past Tim Howard to give Villa the lead.

Houllier would not disclose what was said but Moyes revealed: "He said he needed the result more than I did. We have been friends for a long time and I started laughing. I know how much he does need the result, but good friends do things honestly and I certainly wasn't going to let his team win if we could do anything about it."

Everton led through Leon Osman's 37th-minute strike before Bent's two goals - which took his tally for Villa, Sunderland and England this season to 19 - put Villa ahead. Everton had the better chances but had to wait until Phil Jagielka's tumble after a harmless-looking challenge by Jean Makoun, which let Leighton Baines level from the spot seven minutes from time.

Both managers believe Bent, in tandem with Ashley Young and the excellent Stewart Downing, should keep Villa up. Houllier said: "He can look quiet but he's a fox in the box, always on the end of the action. The first was a great collective move and [Downing] made it for him. The second was a fantastic assist by Ashley.

"Darren is full of composure, but the game's not just about him. It was the whole team, with their competitiveness and they fought extremely hard."

Baines, like Moyes, said the Beckford controversy added weight to the arguments for goal-line technology.

"If you get the right decision, then it has to be beneficial," he said. "Not only did it cost us a goal but they went up the other end and scored."

Scorers: Everton Osman 38, Baines 83 pen Aston Villa Bent 47, 68

Substitutes Everton Gueye 6 (Coleman, 52), Vellios (Distin, 80). Aston Villa Heskey (Agbonlahor, 90).

Booked: Everton Jagielka, Heitinga, Osman Aston Villa Walker, Makoun.

Possession Everton 54% Aston Villa 46%

Attempts on target Everton 7 Aston Villa 6

Man of the match Downing Match rating 8/10

Referee M Jones (Cheshire). Attendance 37,619