Aston Villa hold Manchester City as Remi Garde reign begins with promise
Aston Villa claimed a vital point in their survival fight as they held Manchester City in Remi Garde's first game in charge.
The hosts ended a seven-game losing streak with a 0-0 draw against the Barclays Premier League title hopefuls at Villa Park.
Villa remain bottom of the table and five points from safety but did at least stop their alarming slump after surviving a late scare when Fernando thumped the bar.
It was a deserved point for new boss Garde while for City, on a day when rivals Arsenal were engaged in a north London derby with Tottenham, it was a case of dropping points.
Brad Guzan's reaction stop denied Raheem Sterling, and Kevin De Bruyne missed a glorious second-half chance as City failed to find a breakthrough.
With six changes, which included dropping Jack Grealish and Joleon Lescott, Garde stamped his authority on Villa and they reacted well.
There was a renewed sense of confidence despite their run of losses, the first six of which led to former manager Tim Sherwood's sacking.
Villa were comfortable on the ball without initially threatening and it was City who eventually conjured the first chance.
Aleksandar Kolarov had already flashed a dangerous ball across goal before Guzan almost gifted him a 17th-minute opener.
Sterling bamboozled Alan Hutton to find the overlapping Kolarov and the defender's tame shot was scooped onto the outside of the post by Guzan.
From the corner Fernando shot over but it was the first sign City were stirring, even if they lost Wilfried Bony to injury after 24 minutes.
Despite their early composure the closest Villa came was Idrissa Gana's rising drive which flew over Joe Hart's bar.
Villa, though, matched City with the visitors struggling to find a rhythm and focal point without the injured Bony.
City increasingly relied on Sterling's pace to stretch their hosts but Villa managed to keep him on a tight leash.
He was City's best outlet and the England man wanted a penalty eight minutes before half-time when Yaya Toure set him free and he tangled with Ciaran Clark.
It looked soft and summed up City's first-half attacking play as they laboured without the influence of the injured Sergio Aguero.
Sterling moved to the centre of the visitors' attack during a reshuffle by Manuel Pellegrini at the break and he should have opened the scoring after 54 minutes.
Jesus Navas teased Villa on the right and produced a fine cross for the unmarked Sterling, who was denied by Guzan's reflex save.
Replays showed the goalkeeper stopped Sterling's six-yard header with his face but the England man should not have given the American a hope.
It was a bad miss but worse was to follow when De Bruyne failed to convert Navas' cross from four yards after 66 minutes.
The midfielder tried to flick the ball in with his heel but only succeeded in scuffing horribly wide.
The visitors were running out of ideas and threw on Fabian Delph against his former club, with the former Villa midfielder mercilessly jeered after his summer switch.
It did little to boost City's attacking threat but they almost claimed victory in injury time when Fernando's header hit the bar and Delph fired the rebound wide.
TWEET OF THE MATCH:
"Big two points dropped by City. Pellegrini at fault. Poor decisions after Bony injured" - Former City forward Rodney Marsh (@RodneyMarsh10) sums up his frustrations as they failed to break down Aston Villa
Brad Guzan: 7/10
Alan Hutton: 7
Micah Richards: 6
Ciaran Clark: 7
Jordan Amavi: 7
Idrissa Gana: 7
Carlos Sanchez: 8
Scott Sinclair: 7
Jordan Veretout: 7
Carles Gil: 7
Jordan Ayew: 6
Charles N'Zogbia: 6
Leandro Bacuna: 6
Rudy Gestede: 6
Joe Hart: 6
Bacary Sagna: 6
Vincent Kompany: 6
Nicolas Otamendi: 6
Aleksandar Kolarov: 6
Raheem Sterling: 6
Yaya Toure: 6
Kevin De Bruyne: 6
Wilfried Bony: 6
Jesus Navas: 6
Fabian Delph: 6
Kelechi Iheanacho: 6
The midfielder has had his critics this season and he does not grab the headlines often but his all-action display aided Villa.
He helped protect the defence and mucked in at the back when the hosts were under serious second-half pressure.
Villa have lacked that protection for much of the season, one of the reasons why they are in a mess, but he showed promise under Remi Garde - himself a former defensive midfielder.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH:
Brad Guzan earned Villa a point with a fine reflex stop from Raheem Sterling in the second half - but in truth he should never have been given a chance.
Sterling was left unmarked for Jesus Navas' cross and, just six yards out, powered a header towards goal.
Guzan spread himself and the ball cannoned off the keeper's nose and over the bar. It was one of several golden chances for City which they failed to take.
MOAN OF THE MATCH:
For all Villa's hard work and battling spirit, City should have put the game out of sight in the second half.
Sterling, De Bruyne and Fernando all missed clear chances as the visitors piled on the pressure without breaking the deadlock.
All three should have scored - although it could have been different had Wilfried Bony not gone off injured before the break.
Manuel Pellegrini will be desperate for the return of Sergio Aguero to ensure they do not suffer similar frustration.
VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT:
Manuel Pellegrini will be wondering why it took 45 minutes for his side to find top gear, although they were frustrated at every turn.
It handed Arsenal an advantage in the title race, before the north London derby, and they could be two crucial points dropped at the end of the season.
Remi Garde's first game in charge at Aston Villa finished with a relative success as Villa ended their run of seven straight league defeats. He has something to build on in Birmingham.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Everton v Aston Villa, November 21 (Premier League)
Manchester City v Liverpool, November 21 (Premier League)
Aston Villa defender Micah Richards, who started his career at City, paid tribute to his team-mates after they ended their barren run.
Richards told Sky Sports: "We have been playing well. Today was a massive, massive draw for us.
"We fought for each other and we played some good football as well."
Fellow Villa defender Ciaran Clark added: "It's always nice to come off the pitch to cheers and everyone's happy at the end of the day
"We might have been unlucky not to get all three points."
City boss Manuel Pellegrini was left frustrated as a number of opportunities passed his side by in the second half.
"Of course we tried to score, but we couldn't," he said. "Villa didn't shoot once to our goalkeeper but these things happen, we were unlucky with three or four opportunities.
"That happens in football, we didn't score, but I was very happy with the way we played, especially in the second half."