Young stunner earns Aston Villa draw to deny struggling Nottingham Forest | Premier League

Armed with a new contract, Steve Cooper and Nottingham Forest needed a reaction and though they failed to get the three points they craved they halted their five-match losing run to earn a draw at home to Aston Villa, a result that also lifts them from the bottom of the table. For Steven Gerrard, it was another frustrating game as his team laboured in the final third but a glass half-full supporter might point to this draw extending Villa’s unbeaten run to four matches. Ashley Young’s sensational strike cancelled out Emmanuel Dennis’s opener on an autumnal evening by the River Trent.

After another eventful week, Forest supporters made their love for Cooper plain. As the Forest manager headed for the dugout a few minutes before kick-off, as is his ritual, he applauded all four sides of this charismatic stadium and gave the fans who adore him, some of whom in the Bridgford Stand unfurled a flag and a banner with the words “leader of the garibaldi” a soothing thumbs-up. Forest’s latest appointment, the former Watford sporting director Filippo Giraldi, observed the warm-up from the sidelines and spent the game sat alongside chairman Nicholas Randall in the directors’ box, a row behind Forest’s chief executive, Dane Murphy.

Forest hope Cooper’s new three-year contract will bring calm to the chaos but Dennis’s 15th-minute opener served to whip up an already vociferous home crowd. Morgan Gibbs-White sent a free-kick into the box from the right flank and Tyrone Mings allowed Dennis a free header, which he glanced past Emi Martínez. Gerrard was immediately deep in discussion with Austin MacPhee, the Villa set-piece coach, presumably asking how Dennis was afforded so much room to score on his full league debut for Forest. Dennis was one of five Forest changes, in for Taiwo Awoniyi, with Serge Aurier replacing Neco Williams at right-back and Jesse Lingard also dropped.

It was a nightmarish start for Gerrard, whose side saw plenty of the ball in the early stages, but just as it seemed Villa were running dry on ideas Young, arguably Villa’s best performer in recent weeks, sourced a brilliant equaliser. Ollie Watkins rose above Aurier to nod the ball down into the 18-yard box and while Ryan Yates, who captained Forest, flung himself at the ball to head clear, it dropped invitingly on the edge of the box and Young smacked a clean effort into the bottom corner. Cooper fumed at the fourth official, Tony Harrington, incensed that Villa were awarded a free-kick on halfway in the buildup, with Ezri Konsa fortunate to get a foul after tangling with Gibbs-White.

Emmanuel Dennis celebrates his goal for Nottingham Forest
Emmanuel Dennis celebrates his goal for Nottingham Forest. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

If anything spoke to the tension surrounding the game and heightened value of victory it was the sight of both managers, who crossed paths in the Liverpool academy, despairing at decisions in a heated first half. Saying that, Gerrard could have no complaints when Watkins had a second Villa goal ruled out for offside on 25 minutes. Jacob Ramsey skated down the left and centred the ball but Watkins had strayed beyond the Forest defence before applying the finishing touch. Before the interval Aurier crossed for Cheikhou Kouyaté but his header was easy for Martínez to claim.

Villa started the second half with more purpose and Philippe Coutinho tricked his way past Yates before blasting a wayward shot high and wide to jeers from the home support. John McGinn was guilty of being too ponderous in possession but the Villa captain slipped in Ramsey on the half-turn and the Villa midfielder surged forward and centred the ball. Watkins was in the six-yard box waiting for a tap in but Scott McKenna made a smart intervention to block the cross and deny a near-certain goal. Watkins saw a header saved by the Forest goalkeeper Dean Henderson on the hour and at the other end Gibbs-White turned Douglas Luiz and curled wide with the outside of his boot.

The Forest crowd tried to urge their team over the line to a second league victory of the season and Kouyaté, perhaps inspired by Young’s strike, tried his luck from the edge of the D. Villa, too, kept pushing, though without much in the way of end product. McGinn’s substitution was jeered by some of the away support when Leander Dendoncker entered in his place and Gerrard introduced the striker Cameron Archer with nine minutes to play. A high-tempered game occasionally spilled over, with Neco Williams and Ramsey confronting one another and Douglas Luiz digging his forehead into Brennan Johnson but in the end these sides could not be separated.

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