Everton make point at Aston Villa
Aston Villa and Everton played out a 1-1 draw in a tame Premier League encounter at Villa Park.
New loan signing Robbie Keane was restricted to a 10-minute cameo role off the bench for Aston Villa, who welcomed back Shay Given after a six week lay-off with a hamstring problem.
Aston Villa produced an insipid performance in the first-half, although it was they who registered the first shot on target as Tim Howard pushed away Stiliyan Petrov's free-kick in unorthodox fashion. Two-thirds of Howard's body appeared to be over the line as he made the save.
Tim Cahill just failed to latch onto a terrific long pass from Gibson at the other end, and the returning Given then made an excellent low save to deny Louis Saha who headed a Leighton Baines' free-kick powerfully towards goal.
Everton were well on top in the first-half and will argue they should have had a penalty in the 22nd minute. Donovan crossed for Saha after a fine run down the right and as the Frenchman attempted to make contact with the ball, he appeared to be pulled back by Alan Hutton.
Everton continued to press and Given was forced into a fantastic reflex save to stop Stephen Warnock capping a poor first-half display with an own-goal. The former Blackburn defender headed a cross towards his own goal and Given sprung to his left to beat the ball away.
Gabriel Agbonlahor finally gave the Villa fans something to shout about as he evaded two Everton players before curling in a low shot that Howard did well to push around the post.
Given made an unorthodox save of his own after the break as he blocked a powerful Marouane Fellaini header with his upper arm.
But Villa came out with far more purpose after the interval, and it was they who broke the deadlock when Bent fired a low Stephen Ireland cross into the roof of the net from close range.
Bent then connected with another Ireland cross and Howard had to be on his mettle to save his low header.
Although Villa dominated the second half for long spells, Everton will believe they deserved their equaliser, which came in the 69th minute via Anichebe. The Nigerian had only been on the pitch for eight minutes after replacing Drenthe when he ran onto a pass from Donovan and slid the ball low beyond Given. Marc Albrighton was culpable as instead of tracking the striker he appealed for an offside flag that never came.
Neither side looked like finding the winner in the final 20 minutes, despite Keane's late introduction as a substitute.
Given was called upon to block an Anichebe shot that looked to be heading off target but it ended all square in a match between two sides who will find it difficult to press for a European spot on the evidence of this encounter.