Everton holds Aston Villa to 1-1 away draw
Updated: January 14, 2012, 13:50
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BIRMINGHAM, England(AP) Aston Villa had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to Everton in the Premier League on Saturday after letting slip a second-half lead.
Both sides had early chances, but the real action did not start until after the break. Villa striker Darren Bent was picked out by midfielder Stephen Ireland to bundle home the opener in the 56th minute, though the lead only lasted 13 minutes.
United States forward Landon Donovan, who is on loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy, played a perfect through-ball for substitute Victor Anichebe to level past Everton's American keeper Tim Howard.
The positives for Villa were an end to a run of four home defeats and an inspired performance from recalled keeper Shay Given, who had been sidelined for six weeks with a hamstring injury. For Everton, the high points were David Moyes' decision to send on Anichebe and Donovan's impressive performance on the right of midfield.
Villa was the first to threaten after Bent made a probing run toward the Everton box and was brought down by John Heitinga. Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov's 25-yard (meter) free kick contained plenty of power and was fisted away by the diving Howard.
Everton came more into the game and new signing Darron Gibson's flighted pass picked out a run into the Villa area from Tim Cahill but the Australian midfielder's first touch let him down. Given then made an excellent save away to his left to keep out a glancing header by Louis Saha from Leighton Baines's free kick.
Everton appealed in vain for a penalty after defender Alan Hutton appeared to pull back Saha as he attacked a center from Donovan. However, Villa finished the first half strongly and Bent headed over from a center by Stephen Warnock and Howard had to parry a curling effort from Gabriel Agbonlahor around the post.
Given made his third fine save of the game at the start of the second period after James Collins brought down Royston Drenthe. Baines sent in a curling free-kick that found Marouane Fellaini unmarked at the far post and his powerful header was blocked by the Republic of Ireland keeper.
At the other end, Howard parried a shot over his shoulder from Bent before the Villa striker finally broke the deadlock after 56 minutes.
Marc Albrighton's cross was only half cleared and Ireland poked the ball across the box for Bent to net his seventh goal of the campaign.
Moyes responded by bringing on striker Anichebe in place of midfielder Drenthe after 61 minutes and the newcomer needed only eight minutes to find the net. Donovan supplied the telling pass and Anichebe kept his cool to slip the ball past Given.