Match report: Wigan 2-2 Villa - Bent/Vlaar on target
Villa brought down the curtain on an eventful campaign with a well-merited draw against relegated Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
Record signing Darren Bent opened the scoring with a fifth-minute goal against the team who have made football history by winning the FA Cup and going down in the same season.
And although the Latics hit back to lead through Emmerson Boyce and a Nathan Baker own goal, Villa skipper Ron Vlaar earned a point with a spectacular equaliser on the hour.
With the newly-retired Stiliyan Petrov watching from the dug-out, there was nearly a first Villa goal for Joe Bennett during the opening exchanges, the full-back's curling 25-yard free-kick being fisted away by Ali Al Habsi.
But a minute later the visitors were ahead with a superbly-constructed goal.
Gabby Agbonlahor collected Fabian Delph's short pass on the half-way line before delivering a perfect reverse pass to send Bent racing through the middle.
The striker composed himself briefly as he reached the edge of the penalty area before hitting a precise low right-foot drive which left Al Habsi helpless as it went in off the foot of a post.
Unfortunately Villa's celebrations were tempered when a flare was thrown from behind the goal and landed in the goalmouth.
It was several minutes before the game could continue, and skipper Vlaar gestured to the travelling contingent that there should be no repeat.
After Delph had seen a shot charged down, Baker twice rescued Villa in less than a minute.
First the central defender displayed his alertness, getting the ball away for a corner as Arouna Kone lined up a shot following Shaun Maloney's astute pass; then he cleared from a crowded goalmouth when Ben Watson knocked the flag-kick back into the danger zone.
As the 19th minute passed, there was warm appreciation for Petrov from all around the stadium.
But just as the applause was coming to an end, Wigan were level, Boyce meeting Roger Espinoza's deep cross from the left with a powerful header which flew inside the Brad Guzan's near post.
Villa's response was a delightful flick which forced Al Habsi to make a diving save at Delph's feet and then a similarly impressive Bent flick which had the keeper racing from his line to collect as Agbonlahor looked to capitalise.
In the 39th minute, Maloney's dipping free-kick from just outside the area briefly brought back memories of his goal for Villa from a similar position at Manchester City in April 2007, only for Guzan to clutch the ball as he dived to his right.
But in first-half stoppage time, the home side went ahead with a scrappy goal.
Maloney's inswinging corner resulted in a scramble during which Baker blocked Roman Golobart's shot and Ashley Westwood cleared off the line from Watson - only for the ball to bounce back off Baker and over the line.
The Latics were on top at the start of the second period, Guzan doing well to hold Watson's low shot and even better when he dived to save at James McCarthy's feet.
Even so, the keeper was relieved when Bennett cleared Boyce's 59th-minute header off the line and again when the Wigan skipper's shot from the rebound grazed the top of the bar.
A minute later, though, Villa were back on level terms.
Vlaar controlled Bennett's deep free-kick on the edge of the area and as the ball bounced he hooked it right-footed inside Al Habsi's right-hand post for a goal any striker would have been proud of.
After Agbonlahor had sent an angled drive over the bar, the home side were nearly back in front on 79 minutes, James McArthur's angled shot hitting the underside of the bar, while Maloney sent a delicate chip just too high.
At the end of the match supporters of both clubs saluted Petrov as he made an appearance on the pitch before Wigan paraded the FA Cup.
It was an emotional, almost surreal end to a fascinating season.
Wigan: Al Habsi; Boyce (Campabadal 88), Golobart, Scharner, Espinoza; Gomez (Henriquez 69), Watson (Fyvie 69), McArthur, Maloney; Kone, McCarthy. Unused subs: Robles, Di Santo, Mustoe, Redmond.
Villa: Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Bennett; Sylla (Dawkins 59), Westwood (Gardner 87), Delph; Weimann, Bent, Agbonlahor (Bowery75). Unused subs: Given, El Ahmadi, N'Zogbia, Herd.
Go to full match coverage for Wigan 2 - 2 Aston Villa (19th May 2013) >
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