Christian Benteke must have ice in his veins, as his stoppage-time penalty helped Aston Villa beat bitter rivals West Brom 2-1 to earn new manager Tim Sherwood a precious first Premier League victory.
The win was Villa’s first league win since December 7, and remarkably the win moved them them three points clear of the relegation zone. It amazes me that Villa went almost FOUR months without a league win, yet are now out of the relegation zone. What does that say about the other teams battling relegation?
Gabriel Agbonlahor put Villa in front in the 15th minute, running onto Benteke’s flick-on and sliding the ball past Ben Foster. Foster had previously almost allowed a tame shot from Agbonlahor to squirm beneath him and over the line, while Joleon Lescott was forced to clear off the line from another Agbonlahor effort, while Villa midfielder Fabian Delph hit the post in first-half stoppage time. That was more offensive in 45 minutes than Villa managed all of January.
West Brom equalised in the 66th minute when Chris Brunt’s deep right-wing corner was headed back across goal by Lescott and Saido Berahino nodded in his 18th goal of the season. But Villa snatched victory in the 94th minute, with Benteke rolling home from 12 yards after a moment to forget for Foster, who spilled a loose ball and then wiped out Matthew Lowton as he tried to retrieve it.
Villa now sit three points above third-bottom Queens Park Rangers, having played two games more, while Tony Pulis’s West Brom remain 13th. In a quirk of fate, the teams resume hostilities at Villa Park on Saturday in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Elsewhere, Southampton kept alive their Champions League dreams by beating Crystal Palace 1-0 to climb to fifth place in the table, a point below the top four. Sadio Mane settled the game in the 83rd minute, chipping home after visiting goalkeeper Julian Speroni failed to gather a cross from substitute James Ward-Prowse. The Senegalese forward’s goal ended a run of three league games without victory for Ronald Koeman’s side.
Meanwhile, Sunderland manager Gus Poyet was sent off as his side drew 1-1 at Hull City. The Black Cats manger was given his marching orders for protesting after Jack Rodwell was booked for diving and became involved in an angry exchange with Hull manager Steve Bruce before leaving the touchline.
By then Dame N’Doye had put Hull ahead with a 15th-minute back-heel, but Rodwell earned Sunderland a share of the spoils in the 77th minute when he headed in a cross from Patrick van Aanholt. It left Sunderland four points above the bottom three in 16th place, a point below Hull.