Gary Doherty will never hit a better volley than the thunderbolt that left crossbar rattling in the last minute and surely Mauricio Taricco was brought down for a penalty in the second half but, on the other hand, Villa can point to Hassan Kachloul’s looping header that clipped the upright and a succession of chances from corners in a purple patch after the break.
Glenn Hoddle later reflected: "I've got to say that going into the game I thought Villa were ahead of us in pre-season because they have been playing in matches with an edge to them, what you would call proper matches. That was evident.
"They looked stronger in the latter periods of the game than we did. In saying that, we've ended up hitting the crossbar and a penalty decision didn't go our way."
After a bright start and a points victory in the first half, Villa’s fitness — tuned by playing Inter Toto Cup ties since July 14 — came to the fore in the second half.
Our plans were disrupted after only 10 minutes. Les Ferdinand broke down the right, Wright took ball, man and anything else in his path and after extensive treatment and a brief attempt to, as we say in football, run it off, Sir Les had to hobble off. Twenty minutes gone, first injury.
Long throws caused a few problems in the otherwise watertight Villa defence and with 21 minutes gone, King flicked on Ziege’s throw and Rebrov totally missed his volley from 10 yards.
Iversen’s superb cross was flicked away from Poyet and Rebrov volleyed into the ground before another throw, this time from Freund, caused all sorts of chaos. The ball ballooned up, Schmeichel punched clear but straight to Ziege, whose fierce drive was blocked by a combination of the Great Dane and his defence.
Iversen headed wide and then the move of the half. Doherty played Taricco in behind Wright, his low cross was controlled by Iversen and he laid the ball back perfectly for Poyet whose rasping drive was blocked by Alpay.
Villa had the better chances after the break. Vassell headed over from eight yards after Merson and Hendrie’s short corner routine and the youngster was there again after 51 minutes, sliding in to meet Delaney’s cross but stabbing just wide.
The ground went up as one to claim a penalty after Wright’s challenge on Taricco after 58 minutes but a minute later hearts were in mouths as Alpay met Merson’s corner only to header over.
As Villa pushed on, Kachloul came closest to breaking the deadlock — his header agonisingly kept out by a combination of the upright and Sullivan’s clawing left hand.
The arrival of Ginola brought the next big cheer and his curler had Sullivan at full stretch with 13 minutes remaining.
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But we got a grip of the game in the final 10 minutes and after a long spell of possession created our last chance — Doherty’s magnificent full volley from Rebrov’s pinpoint cross rattling the crossbar with Schmeichel motionless.
That would have been a glorious way to clinch the first win of the season, but it wasn’t to be. Overall, a point each was fair and while our slick passing didn’t really click into gear, the positives were a bright first half, a clean sheet and the re-appearance of Darren Anderton as a second half substitute.
A game of fine margins and, once the disappointment of failing to win our first game is out of the way, one would have to say a fair result.