Nottingham Forest 1 Aston Villa 1 LIVE SCORE: Young’s stunning strike cancels out Dennis’s header to pull Villa level

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STEVE COOPER celebrated his new contract by paying back owner Evangelos Marinakis with a precious point which lifted Forest off the foot of the table – above Leicester City.

But Steven Gerrard will be raging that his side blew their chance to zoom seven places up the table into ninth and ahead of Liverpool.

Instead, they finished a bad-tempered night in 16th – well short of his ambitions and had vet defender Ashley Young to thank for a face-saving point after he equalised Emmanuel Dennis’s early opener.

Only Wolves,  with a pitiful three goals this season, had scored fewer than this pair in the Premier League this season.

In fact, Erling Haaland’s 15 goals in nine games for Manchester City was one more than the 14 Forest and Villa had managed in twice as many games between them.

However, both sides came into this niggly Midlands rumble intent on going for the jugular against opponents they both clearly believed they could beat.

Once the early sparring subsided, the gloves came off.

Forest fans must have been biting their nails when Cheikh Kouyate fouled Buendia after 13 minutes and Philippe Coutinho lined up to take the free kick.

Seven days earlier James Maddison had punished Forest from a similar distance but Coutinho smacked the ball into a leaping red wall.

Two minutes later Forest showed how to get the most out of a set-piece when they seized the lead with a goal which left Villa faces redder than Forest’s famous shirts.

Tyrone Mings was the Villan of the piece – twice.

The England defender conceded a free kick when he sent Emmanuel Dennis tumbling to the turf.

Morgan Gibbs-White delivered right-footed into the mix and Dennis didn’t even have to leap to steer his header beyond Emi Martinez from seven yards, with Villa’s defenders rooted to the spot.

Closer examination condemned Mings who was caught flat-footed as Dennis casually stepped in front of him to convert one of the easiest goals he’ll score this season.

It was a terrific way to celebrate his first Premier start for Forest with his first Premier goal for Cooper’s men.

Villa can’t say they weren’t warned as Dennis the menace had scored twice against them last season for Watford.

Forest were frenzied and Serge Aurier was booked for a typically crunching tackle from on Jacob Ramsey to set the fuse on an explosive clash.

But Cooper’s men couldn’t hold on to their lead and Villa were level within seven minutes with a goal which highlighted one of Forest’s many Achilles heels this season.

Ollie Watkins nodded down a deep cross at the edge of the Forest box and Ryan Yates attempt to head clear saw the ball land at Ashley Young.

Villa’s veteran full-back took one touch to control and then lashed a screamer of a half-volley which ripped by Dean Henderson from 25 yards to leave the keeper gasping. 

It was a blast from the past as Young celebrated his first Premier goal for Villa – 11 years after his last one for the club!

In doing so he became Villa’s second oldest Premier League scorer (37years 93days) after Peter Schmeichel (37years 336days).

Worryingly for Henderson nine of the 21 goals he has conceded in the Premier League this season have come from outside the box, more than any other side.

He has now conceded at least once from outside the box in his last SEVEN matches, the longest such run by a team in Premier League history.

Steve Cooper tried to complain that Yates had been fouled but VAR proved otherwise.

Villa carved through Forest again three minutes later when Ramsey’s low centre was bundled over the line by Ollie Watkins but the striker was well offside.

At that point we thought we were in for a goalfest – instead the game descended into fight club.

Steve Cook was next in the book for a lunging late tackle on Ramsey, Konsa followed him before the break for a similar offence on Gibbs-White.

John McGinn carried on the war after the break, booked for a nasty challenge from behind on Brennan Johnson.

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