Manchester City 3 Aston Villa 1
There's nothing much scarier for any defence than Darius Vassell in full cry.
But Aston Villa still had only themselves to blame for the part they played in turning last night's reunion with old boy Vassell into a Halloween horror show.
It was a dream night for Vassell as the £2million summer signing doubled his Premiership tally for his new club by scoring Manchester City's first two goals.
But it was a painful experience for Stuart Taylor, summoned from the bench for his Villa debut after Thomas Sorensen was injured in the pre-match warm-up. And it was just as big a nightmare for Jlloyd Samuel, the central figure in the shocking Sunday League standard howler that set Vassell on his way.
It was also certainly not the sort of evening to add any value to Villa's share price as David O'Leary's men once again failed to produce the goods under the lights.
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Villa have now failed to win in their last seven night matches in the league since beating Spurs last November. And, in painful contrast to Stuart Pearce's City, who climbed to third in the top flight table, Villa's run of just one win in seven league games leaves them stuck with equally misfiring local rivals Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion in the Premiership's bottom five.
It did not take long to prick the huge bubble of buoyancy currently hovering over Villa Park as a result of the club's forthcoming buy-out.
It was not until the two teams were lined up in the tunnel that it emerged that Sorensen had pulled a thigh muscle and bargain basement summer signing Taylor would be making his bow.
But, within four minutes, Taylor had been embarrassed by a goal that, even with David ' Calamity' James between the sticks at one end, you simply could not have scripted.
Vassell out jumped Liam Ridgewell to head on David Sommeil's long ball, Samuel tried to nod it back to his keeper and the Villa left-back was horrified to discover that Taylor had ventured yards outside his area.
The result was a comical repeat of the famous Andy Gray goal that won Wolves the League Cup at Wembley 25 years ago.
For Dave Needham and Peter Shilton that day, read Samuel and Taylor.
Samuel's header sailed over Taylor. And, just like Gray, another ex-Villa favourite who found fame and fortune in the North West, Vassell ran on to steer into an unguarded net.
It was a desperate start for Taylor. But, in fairness to him, in situations like that, it's invariably the keeper who has the last shout. And his one intention, until Samuel intervened, had clearly been to do the decent thing and stick it in Row Z.
If Vassell had not already been charged up, he was now. After trying his luck from range, the lively Villa old boy was so close to a second after a neat interchange with Andy Cole.
A one-two with Cole on the edge of the Villa box saw him drift square of Olof Mellberg and Ridgewell before unleashing a well-struck right-foot shot, to which Taylor partially redeemed himself by getting a touch on to the outside of his left upright.
But, if Taylor was maybe the innocent party for the first goal, he would have been disappointed by the ease with which he was beaten when Vassell doubled his side's lead.
Again the crafty Cole was the supplier.
His neat first-time flick as he received Danny Mills' ball in from the right took out Ridgewell and he slipped the ball to Vassell, whose volley was well struck enough but should still not have beaten the dive of the badly placed Taylor.
Shell-shocked Villa did finally find some sort of response before the break when James Milner set up top scorer Steven Davis and his low shot was touched round the post by James.
But, as the luckless Samuel further illustrated when he ended up with a booking for an innocent challenge with Lee Croft, it was already proving not to be their night.
And it was City who maintained their hold after the break.
They should have had a penalty when Mellberg brought down Joey Barton. And Cole should have done better than shoot wide after being set free in the box by Stephen Ireland's cute flick.
Those close shaves were briefly made to look crucial when Villa pulled one back out of the blue.
Half-time substitute Patrik Berger slung over a curling left-wing cross, the presence of a flailing Gavin McCann at the near post was enough to distract James, and Ridgewell stole in ahead of Mills to chest home from a yard out.
Scrappy maybe, but nobody forgets their first league goal!
Ridgewell's effort offered Villa hope. But that was extinguished seven minutes from time when Cole's leftfoot shot from the edge of the area spun cruelly up off Mark Delaney and over the helpless Taylor's head.