Bellamy lashed home the equaliser in an entertaining game at Villa Park
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer at Villa Park
Craig Bellamy's second-half equaliser earned Manchester City a deserved point and lifted them into the top four after former captain Richard Dunne threatened to wreck Gareth Barry's return to Aston Villa.
Dunne declined the opportunity to celebrate in front of City's fans when he beat Barry to James Milner's corner to head Villa in front early on.
And he almost added a second before City's growing superiority was rewarded when Bellamy turned Emmanuel Adebayor's cross high beyond Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel after 67 minutes.
City looked the more likely to claim the three points in the closing stages of an entertaining confrontation between two clubs hoping to disturb the established order in the top four of the Premier League.
A defeat would have been cruel on Dunne, who delivered a magnificent performance at the heart of Aston Villa's defence as well as scoring his side's goal. He was colossal in tandem with James Collins and barely put a foot wrong.
Dunne's measured response to his goal was a reaction to a rapturous reception he received from Manchester City's fans, while former Villa captain Barry gave a typically mature display despite getting a hostile welcome from the supporters who idolised him over a career at the club that spanned 11 years and 440 appearances.
City boss Mark Hughes may just take a greater measure of satisfaction from the result than opposite number Martin O'Neill as the visitors showed resilience after falling behind, and greater quality in midfield and attack.
The £40m central defensive partnership of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott remains a work in progress, unlike the Villa pairing of Dunne and Collins, but if Hughes can fine-tune this aspect of his expensively-assembled side, then the feeling that they are going places this season will only increase.
Barry's discomfort started from the moment he emerged from Manchester City's team bus after it pulled into Villa Park; any hopes of a warm greeting disappeared when Barry was met by resounding jeers from fans who once idolised him.
In contrast, Dunne was warmly received by City's travelling support, a gesture the former Eastlands captain clearly appreciated after nine years at a club where he became a popular figure.
Villa almost opened the scoring inside two minutes when Collins touched on Ashley Young's corner and City keeper Shay Given was forced to scramble in front of John Carew to save with his legs at the near post.
It had been an ambitious opening from both teams, and Adebayor, returning from a three-game ban imposed for his stamp on former Arsenal team-mate Robin van Persie, almost cashed in on a slick exchange between Wayne Bridge and Bellamy.
O'Neill's side broke the deadlock after 15 minutes, and it was a goal heavily laced with irony as former City captain Dunne rose above ex-Villa skipper Barry to head powerfully beyond Given.
Dunne (second from left) was calm after scoring against his former club
Dunne repaid the respect shown to him by City's fans by pointedly refusing to show any signs of elation as he was mobbed by his Villa colleagues.
City pressed for the equaliser, and Carlos Tevez tested Friedel with a long-range shot that got the faintest touch off Adebayor but flew straight into the arms of the grateful Villa keeper.
Villa suffered a scare 10 minutes before the interval when Young was sent flying by Nigel de Jong on the edge of the area in a clash that earned the City midfield man a yellow card from referee Mike Dean.
Young was forced to leave the field for lengthy treatment, but recovered sufficiently to take his place at the start of the second half.
The lingering ill-feeling surrounding Barry's summer switch to City was illustrated when he went towards the touchline to take a free-kick, only to be greeted by an angry Villa fan waving fake £50 banknotes with Barry's face printed on them in his direction.
Milner squandered a chance to double Villa's lead after 49 minutes when he fired an angled shot across the face of the goal after he was found by Steve Sidwell.
It was the signal for City boss Hughes to make a change, replacing the limping De Jong with Stephen Ireland.
Dunne, not exactly renowned as a marksman, almost doubled his tally with a replica of his first goal after 58 minutes. He met another Milner corner with his head, with Barry again beaten, but this time his downward header was inches off target.
City made the most of the reprieve with an equaliser after 67 minutes in a passage of the game that provided the perfect illustration of the attacking riches at their disposal.
Bellamy lashed a finish high past Friedel on the turn from Adebayor's pass - and Hughes' immediate response was to replace Tevez with Roque Santa Cruz.
City's reaction after the break had been impressive, and the arrival of Ireland had provided a new dimension in midfield, allowing them to put their stamp on proceedings.
It would have been harsh on either side had the other claimed a late winner - and despite great energy being expended in five minutes of stoppage time that brought an angry response from Hughes as he heard echoes of the late loss at Manchester United, the points were shared.
Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill: "I'm disappointed with the result but not the performance because we were just fantastic.
"The first half was just about the best we have played and we could have gone 2-0 up. City came into it after because they are a very, very good side.
"The players and the crowd were all fantastic tonight. We were very strong and we played some great stuff too."
Man City manager Mark Hughes: "A lot of teams will come here and go under, but I thought we showed a lot of very good qualities.
"We got level and as the game wore on I thought we looked more likely to win it. But we'll take a point and we've had a fantastic start to the season.
"When we come back after internationals we will start all over again."
90:00+5:53 The referee blows his whistle to end the game.
90:00+5:29 The ball is crossed by Stephen Warnock, clearance made by Kolo Toure.
90:00+5:23 James Milner sends in a cross, Kolo Toure manages to make a clearance.
90:00+3:45 Pablo Zabaleta delivers the ball, clearance by Richard Dunne.
90:00+2:46 Shaun Wright-Phillips sends in a cross, save by Brad Friedel.
90:00+1:35 James Milner crosses the ball, save made by Shay Given.
89:04 Centre by Craig Bellamy.
88:01 Free kick awarded for a foul by Shaun Wright-Phillips on James Milner. Free kick taken by James Milner.
87:23 Foul by James Collins on Roque Santa Cruz, free kick awarded. Craig Bellamy crosses the ball in from the free kick, clearance
made by Carlos Cuellar.
86:28 Free kick awarded for a foul by Gareth Barry on Steve Sidwell. James Collins takes the direct free kick.
85:42 Craig Bellamy delivers the ball, save made by Brad Friedel.
84:29 The ball is delivered by Wayne Bridge, clearance by Stiliyan Petrov.
84:12 Pablo Zabaleta produces a cross, clearance by Carlos Cuellar.
82:01 A cross is delivered by Stephen Warnock.
80:57 Substitution Nigel Reo-Coker joins the action as a substitute, replacing Ashley Young.
80:34 The ball is sent over by Wayne Bridge, clearance by Richard Dunne.
78:28 The official flags Steve Sidwell offside. Indirect free kick taken by Shay Given.
77:13 Free kick awarded for a foul by Craig Bellamy on James Collins. Richard Dunne takes the free kick.
76:47 James Milner produces a cross, Steve Sidwell takes a shot. Blocked by Joleon Lescott.
76:18 The ball is swung over by Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Cuellar makes a clearance.
74:58 The ball is delivered by Ashley Young, Header from close range by James Milner clears the bar.
72:25 Ashley Young produces a cross.
71:59 The ball is swung over by Carlos Cuellar.
69:37 Ashley Young sends in a cross, blocked by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
68:41 Emile Heskey fouled by Stephen Ireland, the ref awards a free kick. James Collins restarts play with the free kick.
68:20 Substitution Emile Heskey on for John Carew.
67:52 Substitution Roque Santa Cruz comes on in place of Carlos Tevez.
67:00 Assist on the goal came from Emmanuel Adebayor.
67:00 GOAL - Craig Bellamy:Aston Villa 1 - 1 Man City Craig Bellamy finds the net with a goal from inside the penalty area high into the middle of the goal. Aston Villa 1-1 Man
66:54 The ball is swung over by Emmanuel Adebayor,
66:05 Gabriel Agbonlahor is ruled offside. Free kick taken by Joleon Lescott.
65:38 Craig Bellamy crosses the ball, save by Brad Friedel.
64:03 Inswinging corner taken by Craig Bellamy from the left by-line played to the near post, clearance made by James Collins.
63:54 Stephen Ireland takes a shot. Blocked by Steve Sidwell.
63:19 Inswinging corner taken by Craig Bellamy from the left by-line, clearance by James Collins.
63:02 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Gareth Barry, James Collins manages to make a clearance.
61:56 Craig Bellamy delivers the ball.
61:43 The ball is sent over by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
60:22 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by James Milner played to the near post, Pablo Zabaleta manages to make a clearance.
59:33 Gabriel Agbonlahor takes a shot. Blocked by Joleon Lescott. Corner taken by James Milner from the right by-line to the near
post, James Collins takes a shot. Blocked by Kolo Toure.
58:55 The ball is delivered by Craig Bellamy, James Collins makes a clearance.
58:10 Outswinging corner taken right-footed by James Milner from the right by-line, Header by Richard Dunne from deep inside the
penalty area misses to the left of the goal.
57:20 Ashley Young crosses the ball in from the free kick, Emmanuel Adebayor manages to make a clearance.
57:20 Booking Shaun Wright-Phillips is cautioned.
57:16 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Stephen Warnock by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
54:37 Stiliyan Petrov produces a cross, Gareth Barry manages to make a clearance.
49:06 Substitution Stephen Ireland on for Nigel De Jong.
49:06 James Milner produces a right-footed shot from the edge of the area and misses to the left of the target.
48:55 Stephen Warnock takes a shot. Blocked by Joleon Lescott.
48:25 Short corner worked by James Milner.
47:32 Stephen Warnock gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Nigel De Jong. Free kick taken by Kolo Toure.
46:18 Gareth Barry produces a cross.
46:06 Craig Bellamy produces a cross, Richard Dunne makes a clearance.
45:28 The ball is sent over by Ashley Young.
45:01 The second half kicks off.
45:00+2:24 The half-time whistle blows.
43:05 The ball is delivered by James Milner, save by Shay Given.
40:25 Steve Sidwell gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Shaun Wright-Phillips. Free kick taken by Gareth Barry, Emmanuel
Adebayor takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel. Corner taken left-footed by Gareth Barry from the right by-line, James Collins
manages to make a clearance.
38:27 Pablo Zabaleta crosses the ball, John Carew gets a block in.
38:17 The ball is delivered by Wayne Bridge, Steve Sidwell manages to make a clearance.
38:03 A cross is delivered by Shaun Wright-Phillips, James Collins makes a clearance.
37:56 A cross is delivered by Pablo Zabaleta, clearance by Richard Dunne.
36:05 Wayne Bridge fouled by Richard Dunne, the ref awards a free kick. Gareth Barry restarts play with the free kick.
34:51 Free kick crossed right-footed by James Milner.
34:51 Booking Nigel De Jong goes into the book.
34:42 Free kick awarded for a foul by Nigel De Jong on Ashley Young.
33:35 Gareth Barry takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Ashley Young.
32:30 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Carlos Tevez by Stiliyan Petrov. Direct free kick taken by Craig Bellamy.
31:44 Handball by Carlos Tevez. Direct free kick taken by Brad Friedel.
Correction - 30:41 Gabriel Agbonlahor is ruled offside. Shay Given takes the free kick.
30:41 Gabriel Agbonlahor is flagged offside by the assistant referee. Kolo Toure restarts play with the free kick.
29:37 A cross is delivered by Craig Bellamy, clearance by James Collins.
28:30 Carlos Tevez takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel.
28:22 The ball is sent over by Shaun Wright-Phillips, clearance by Richard Dunne.
27:11 Nigel De Jong takes the direct free kick.
27:11 Booking The referee shows Stiliyan Petrov a yellow card.
27:05 Stiliyan Petrov challenges Shaun Wright-Phillips unfairly and gives away a free kick.
26:19 The ball is swung over by Stephen Warnock, Steve Sidwell takes a shot. Save made by Shay Given.
25:07 Richard Dunne gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Craig Bellamy. Wayne Bridge restarts play with the free kick.
24:28 Unfair challenge on Carlos Cuellar by Gareth Barry results in a free kick. James Milner takes the direct free kick. The ball
is delivered by Stiliyan Petrov, Shaun Wright-Phillips manages to make a clearance.
21:38 Long distance shot from Carlos Tevez misses to the left of the goal.
20:24 Effort by Carlos Tevez from a long way out goes over the target.
18:16 Centre by Stiliyan Petrov.
18:09 The ball is delivered by Gabriel Agbonlahor, clearance by Kolo Toure.
16:11 The ball is sent over by Shaun Wright-Phillips, Brad Friedel makes a save.
Correction - 15:42 Gabriel Agbonlahor challenges Shaun Wright-Phillips unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick taken by Gareth Barry.
15:42 Foul by James Milner on Shaun Wright-Phillips, free kick awarded. Gareth Barry restarts play with the free kick.
14:42 The assist for the goal came from Stephen Warnock.
14:42 GOAL - Richard Dunne:Aston Villa 1 - 0 Man City Richard Dunne grabs a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Aston Villa 1-0 Man City.
14:17 Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Stephen Warnock from the right by-line,
13:34 John Carew concedes a free kick for a foul on Joleon Lescott. Joleon Lescott restarts play with the free kick.
12:56 The ball is swung over by Craig Bellamy, Carlos Cuellar manages to make a clearance.
11:48 Gabriel Agbonlahor sends in a cross, clearance made by Kolo Toure.
10:45 Shot from outside the box by Stiliyan Petrov misses to the left of the goal.
9:38 Unfair challenge on Nigel De Jong by Ashley Young results in a free kick. Pablo Zabaleta restarts play with the free kick.
6:27 Emmanuel Adebayor takes a shot. Brad Friedel makes a save.
5:52 Shaun Wright-Phillips delivers the ball, Emmanuel Adebayor takes a shot. Save by Brad Friedel.
5:20 Wayne Bridge takes a shot. Steve Sidwell gets a block in. Craig Bellamy takes a inswinging corner to the near post, save
made by Brad Friedel.
4:08 The referee blows for offside. Shay Given takes the indirect free kick.
3:56 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Ashley Young by Shaun Wright-Phillips. Richard Dunne takes the direct free kick.
1:36 James Milner has an effort at goal from outside the area missing to the wide right of the target.
0:54 Ashley Young takes the inswinging corner, Gabriel Agbonlahor takes a shot. Save by Shay Given.
0:00 The referee starts the match.
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