BLACKBURN Rovers were beaten by Aston Villa in a hard-fought encounter in the Asia Trophy in Hong Kong today.

The game was goalless at half time but Darren Bent was credited with the winner in the 49th minute after getting on the end of Barry Bannan's right-wing cross, although it remained unclear if he actually got a touch.

Rovers came close to an equaliser shortly afterwards when Christopher Samba's storming run ended with a lay-off to Brett Emerton, but Given tipped the Australian's curling effort wide at full stretch.

Villa could have added a second with four minutes to go when Marc Albrighton pounced on a loose ball and drove towards goal but Robinson did brilliantly to turn his fierce effort around the near post.

In the first half Rovers had the first meaningful attempt when Mauro Formica saw a stinging drive parried away by Given.

Shortly after, David Dunn linked up with the same player but his 25-yard drive was too high.

Stiliyan Petrov's neat touch saw the Bulgarian race clear in the 25th minute but he fired straight at Paul Robinson, the last good chance of the opening period.

Rovers will now play again on Saturday against the loser of today's other semi final between Chelsea and Hong Kong side Kitchee.

Rovers: Paul Robinson, Michel Salgado (Nick Blackman 76), Martin Olsson, Chris Samba, Gael Givet, Brett Emerton, David Dunn (Vince Grella 76), Steven Nzonzi, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Jason Roberts, Mauro Formica.

Subs not used: Mark Bunn, Jake Kean, Grant Hanley, Zac Aley, Myles Anderson, Adam Henley, Nick Blackman, Ryan Nelsen, Keith Andrews, Ruben Rochina, Junior Hoilett.

Aston Villa: Shay Given, Luke Young, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stephen Warnock, Barry Bannan (Marc Albrighton 65), Jean Makoun (Fabian Delph 65), Stiliyan Petrov, Gabriel Agbonlahor (Nathan Delfouneso 65), Emile Heskey, Darren Bent.

Subs not used: Brad Guzan, Ciaran Clark, Habib Beye, Eric Lichaj, Chris Herd, Andrew Marshall, Shane Lowry, Gary Gardner, Stephen Ireland, Jonathan Hogg.