Christian Benteke’s second half hat-trick stunned Paolo Di Canio’s Sunderland and breathed new light into Aston Villa’s Premier League survival challenge.
Aston Villa took the lead on 31 minutes thanks to a 25 yard belter from Ron Vlaar. Sunderland failed to clear the ball after intense pressure from the hosts, the ball came to the defender and he smashed Villa in front. Villa fans were still celebrating but the lead lasted just 30 seconds, Danny Rose taking a pass from Graham and calmly sliding the ball past Guzan to stun Villa Park.
Andreas Wiemann restored Villa’s lead 7 minutes before the interval. Sunderland were caught on the counter and Matthew Lowton’s perfect pass across the face of goal allowed Wiemann to tap in for 2-1. Half time sounded and the second half was finely poised…as so we thought.
Aston Villa went further in front thanks to the star man of the night and of the second half, Christian Benteke. The striker got his first on 55 minutes after Agbonlahor’s shot was not dealt with, heading in the rebound for 3-1. Villa Park was bouncing at this point with Benteke’s name shouted around the rafters.
Benteke made it four, 5 minutes later. Another tademark header, powering home Ashley Westwood’s corner. Sunderland were in shell shock and there was nothing Di Canio could do despite his frustration and desperation on the touchline. It got worse for the Italian as Stephen Sessegon was sent off on 70 minutes for a clumsy and rash challenge on Sylla.
Benteke completed his superb hat-trick on 72 minutes, collecting a deflection off Carlos Cuellar to accurately fire in from a tight angle. Benteke was the first man to hit 18 goals in a single season for Villa, Dwight Yorke managed 17 on two occasions. He was replaced by Darren Bent and left the pitch to a standing ovation from the Villa faithful. Agbonlahor completed the rout on 88 minutes by rounding keeper Mignolet and side footing home.
It was the perfect night for Aston Villa who have risen to 16th in the Premier League and piled pressure on Newcastle who slip to 17th thanks to the Midlanders better goal difference. Sunderland remain 15th but have taken a big knock to their goal difference thanks to this result.
The battle for survival in the Premier League takes another twist. Aston Villa definately put in their performance of the season and this result will be talked about for months to come.