New Delhi: A first-half header from Richard Dunne was not enough for Aston Villa as Craig Bellamy rescued a 1-1 draw for Manchester City.
It was a tale of two former players as Dunne headed Villa into the lead against his former club, out-jumping Gareth Barry in the process.
Villa looked confident at the back for most of the game but their stranglehold on the City attack was eventually broken when Bellamy found a second-half equaliser as he rounded off a swift attacking move.
Neither side could find a winner in an end-to-end finish, but both teams showed they had the potential to push on and cause problems for the established top four.
The game started brightly as seven of the latest England squad aimed to shine brightest in front of watching England manager Fabio Cappelo.
In the first minute of the game, Gabriel Agbonlahor flicked on from an in-swinging corner, but Manchester City keeper Shay Given reacted well to save the near post header with an out-stretched foot.
After a closely-fought opening ten minutes, in which neither side wanted to make the first mistake, it was Villa skipper Stilyian Petrov who launched the first notable effort on goal as he shot a 25-yard effort just wide of Given’s left-hand post in the 11th minute.
And it was the home side that broke the deadlock in the 15th minute as former City skipper Richard Dunne comfortably out jumped Barry to emphatically head past Given.
Dunne refused to celebrate the goal and the away fans duly showed their appreciation.
Former Villa captain Barry had his every touch greeted by a chorus of boos and faced Villa fans waving fake £50 banknotes as he ventured over to take corner-kicks.
In return, Villa were more than equal to anything City could muster in attack, restricting Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez to nothing more than half-chances through the first 45 minutes.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel was out quickly to the feet of Adebayor to make a smart stop after Craig Bellamy had chased a through pass and cut the ball back from the byline for the Togo international.
Meanwhile, Tevez was restricted to efforts from distance as he fired over the crossbar from 25 yards before pulling a shot from similar distance wide of the goal just two minutes later.
Tevez had his third attempt from distance as the game approached the half-hour mark, but his shot lacked accuracy and even a slight deflection from Adebayor failed to cause trouble for Brad Friedel in the Villa goal.
Barry, who had a slow start to the match, regained his composure to drop a free-kick directly onto the head of Adebayor, who had his header tipped over the crossbar by Friedel.
In the second half, Barry whipped a dangerous ball towards the back post that both defender and goalkeeper failed to claim, but Adebayor was unable to pounce as the ball shot passed the post and out of play.
England hopeful James Milner put in a typically tireless display in the Villa midfield and saw a powerful edge-of-the-box effort fly wide of former Newcastle team-mate Given’s right-hand post.
Villa launched a charge on their opponents' goal as the clock ticked over the hour mark. First, Dunne had a chance to double his tally as he again lost his marker, Barry, from a corner, but the Irishman nodded wide of the post on this occasion.
Just moments later, Dunne’s defensive partner, James Collins, was the player who found space in the City penalty area but the defender couldn’t connect well enough to take the opportunity.
The game was all square again in the 68th minute after a furiously high-paced passage of play resulted in Craig Bellamy firing home from inside the penalty area.
The move started as Stilian Petrov cleared a City attack with a long punt up-field for Agbonlahor to chase. The striker's pace made defender Joleon Lescott nervous as he attempted to shepherd the ball back to his goalkeeper and he eventually opted to clear the ball to fellow defender Kolo Toure.
Toure played the ball forward to Stephen Ireland, who in turn set Adebayor free with a pin-point through ball that split the City defence. The striker, returning from a three-match ban, then cut the ball back for Bellamy to curl home from 12 yards.
As the second-half rolled on, both sides struggled to create any clear-cut chances.
A point was perhaps a fair result for both sides as the game came to a close with neither side creating enough chances to walk away from the game with victory.
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