Aston Villa sent a huge message to their relegation-threatened rivals, with a 6-1 demolition of Sunderland, in a classic encounter at Villa Park.
Goals from Ron Vlaar, Andreas Weinmann, Darren Bent and a Christian Benteke hat-trick sealed a memorable and crucial win for Villa, in their battle for Premier League survival.
Both teams went into the game, with the threat of relegation still looming over them, Aston Villa more so; following Sunderland’s two recent victories.
It is therefore understandable that the first twenty-five minutes of the game was a cagey affair that was full of passion and spirit, without any cutting edge in attack. Neither keeper had a save to make, with most of the action happening in a congested midfield.
Three goals in seven minutes then brought the game to life, as the home side took the lead through captain Vlaar on twenty eight minutes; who unleashed an unstoppable drive past Simon Mignolet from thirty-five yards.
However, Villa’s lead lasted all of two minutes, as from the next attack the Black Cats were level. On loan left back Danny Rose calmly finished off a flowing move; by slotting the ball Past Villa stopper Brad Guzan.
Five minutes later the home side retook the lead, as a poor pass was intercepted by Matthew Lowton who found Andreas Weimann at the back post. The big Austrian controlled the ball brilliantly before slotting it home. Paulo Di Canio will be disappointed at the way his side had twice been punished on the counter attack.
As the second half got under way, it was clear that the home side were in the ascendancy, and that the young Villa team were growing in confidence. Ten minutes into the second half and Belgian Striker Christian Benteke notched his twentieth league goal of the season, seemingly securing the points for Paul Lambert’s team - a remarkable achievement for the striker, particularly when considering Aston Villa’s woeful position in the league.
Four minutes later and the points were secure for Villa, as Benteke latched onto a Kieran Westwood corner, powerfully heading the ball home. From then on it was a case of how many Villa wanted, particularly after a reckless challenge from Stefanne Sessegnon, left the referee with little choice but to show a straight red card.
Whilst it was more clumsy than dangerous, it leaves Sunderland without a key player for the remainder of the season.
By then the Black Cats’ defence was exceptionally vulnerable, and soft goalkeeping from Simon Mignolet gave Benteke a well deserved hat trick; as he couldn’t handle his shot and it squirmed past him at a tight angle into the net.
A miserable and humiliating night was then finished off deep into added time, by Gabby Agbonlahor who calmly rounded the Sunderland keeper and slotted home.
This crucial win leaves Villa five points clear of Wigan, who have a game In hand; whilst it drags Sunderland back into a battle that may well be decided by the last game of the season.
However, the brilliant performance and dominating nature of the win, should give Lambert’s side the confidence and belief that they can defy the odds and avoid relegation.
As for Sunderland, the Di Canio honeymoon period is over, and the eccentric Italian must now really show that he is ready for the challenge of the Premier League.
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