Match report: Villa 0-0 Birmingham City
Gerard Houllier's first Second City derby ended goalless as both Villa and Blues performed resolutely to cancel each other out.
There was little to separate the great rivals in a match dominated by two solid defences.
It means Villa have now gone seven straight matches unbeaten against Blues, while Houllier is yet to lose a derby since his Liverpool side were defeated by Everton in 1999.
In the build-up to this clash, the Villa manager stressed the importance of composure and self-control in the pressure-cooker derby environment.
His team showed both in abundance - particularly Ciaran Clark whose level-headed display more than justified his selection in an unfamiliar midfield screening role.
But, aside from a couple of crunching tackles by Craig Gardner and Luke Young early on, it took a while for the contest to come alive.
It could be said that Brad Friedel was marginally the busier of the two keepers in the first period, though the two tame efforts from Keith Fahey never really looked like troubling the American.
His opposite number Ben Foster survived perhaps the nerviest moment when the rampaging Nigel Reo-Coker came steaming in to charge down his clearance following a weak back pass from Liam Ridgewell. Thankfully for the Blues custodian, the ball sailed off target.
Despite a lack of clear-cut chances, Villa's ball retention was exemplary and their build-up play neat.
A clever exchange between Ashley Young and Emile Heskey almost sent the former through on goal before the linesman intervened with an offside flag.
But the tempo upped slightly after the break - particularly the home side who had three terrific opportunities to seal victory in the last 10 minutes.
Substitute Barry Bannan, who made a lively cameo appearance, called Foster into action with a curling shot from distance.
Another of Villa's replacements John Carew headed James Collins' cross-field ball into Clark's bath but the 21-year-old nodded wide from close range - as well as receiving a clattering from Foster for his troubles.
And in the dying minutes Ashley Young rattled the corner of the upright when he shot from a tight angle.
It was another relatively quiet 45 minutes for Friedel, who had half-chances from Craig Gardner and Cameron Jerome to deal with.
Ex-Villan Gardner saw his low 25-yard effort saved while Jerome shot straight at Friedel from a tight angle.
But neither side were able to break the deadlock after a gripping but tight derby encounter.
VILLA: Friedel, L Young, Dunne, Clark, Collins, Warnock, Downing, Reo-Coker, Sidwell, A Young, Heskey. Subs: Guzan, Ireland, Carew (for Heskey, 82), Delfouneso, Cuellar, Bannan (Sidwell, 58), Lichaj.
BLUES: Foster, Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgwell, Fahey, Ferguson, Gardner, Larsson, Hleb, Zigic. Subs: Taylor, Bowyer, Phillips, Jerome (for Hleb, 71), Michel, Parnaby, Beausejour.
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