Bent finds the net as Aston Villa kick-off pre-season with victory

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A strong Aston Villa side made the perfect start to their preparations for the new Premier League season with a 3-1 win over League Two Mansfield Town.

Darren Bent, returning after a season-long loan spell at Fulham, bagged a brace while Gary Gardener scored the other to give Paul Lambert’s side victory.

But things did not start smoothly for Lambert, who was in the dugout for the first time alongside new assistant manager Roy Keane, as his side trailed at the break thanks to an Alex Fisher header.

It was Villa’s returning stars who made the impact after the break as Alan Hutton, who has not made a competitive appearance for the club under Lambert, laid on the equaliser with a cut back for Bent.

Gardener put the Villans into the lead with just five minutes to go before former England international Bent, who cost the club £24m, put the icing on the cake with a header from an Andreas Weimann cross in the final minute.

In what proved to be a promising workout for Aston Villa, who are 10/3 to be relegated from the Premier League next season, Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson both made their debuts at One Call Stadium.

Cole, who joined from West ham on a free transfer, was deployed in the number 10 role for the Midlands club and Lambert will be hoping he can recapture some of the form that saw him play for England 56 times, scoring 10 goals.

And if the Lions can keep Bent fit and firing alongside a rejuvenated Cole Lambert’s men could be a good value bet to finish in the top 10 in the league at 3/1 with Ladbrokes.

Watch highlights of Villa’s win here:

Premier League champions travel to Tynecastle tonight!

Manchester City will be hoping to get their pre-season tour of Scotland back on track against Hearts after suffering a 2-0 defeat to Dundee.

The Citizens are 2/9 for victory at Tynecastle, while their hosts are 9/1 to inflict back-to-back defeats on Manuel Pellegrini’s side with the draw at 17/4.

Despite this being only a pre-season friendly, Pellegrini will want to see a reaction from his side and backing them to be winning at both half-time and full-time looks tempting at 4/5.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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