McLeish tastes Villa victory
Gabriel Agbonlahor (Gallo Images)
Birmingham - Alex McLeish got his first win as Aston Villa manager as the hosts crushed Blackburn Rovers 3-1 at Villa Park on Saturday.
Playmaker Gabriel Agbonlahor got the Villains on their way with a classy 12th-minute goal before veteran forward Emile Heskey doubled the lead in the 25th.
Norway winger Morten Gamst Pedersen pulled one back for Rovers against the run of play but England striker Darren Bent sealed victory for Villa in the 67th minute.
Despite the acrimony over his pre-season switch from relegated city rivals Birmingham, McLeish was given a sustained warm reception when he walked across to the dugout.
The Scot named an unchanged side for his first competitive home game in charge of the Villains.
Rovers boss Steve Kean, who on Monday was banned from driving for 18 months for a drink-driving offence, made two changes in the bid to land Blackburn's first points of the season.
He brought in captain Ryan Nelsen, the New Zealand skipper, back into the heart of his defence in place of Australia's Brett Emerton, who has a hamstring tweak.
Kean handed a first Blackburn start to striker David Goodwillie, a pre-season signing from Dundee United, with Argentina's Mauro Formica relegated to the substitutes' bench.
Within minutes of taking his place in the dugout, McLeish was cheering Villa's first goal of the season as Agbonlahor charged into the penalty box from the left and curled a superb right-foot shot past goalkeeper Paul Robinson.
Agbonlahor managed only five goals for Villa last season but the effort was enough to take him to 50 Premier League goals for the Villains. Only Dwight Yorke has scored more.
Goodwillie showed his ability with a dangerous shot over Shay Given's crossbar.
Agbonlahor tried to make it 2-0 with a cheeky attempt from 30 yards out, forcing Robinson into a full-stretch diving save.
However, Heskey did get the better of the former England keeper after being set up by Agbonlahor. It was his first Premier League goal since January 2.
Agbonlahor sustained a knock just before the interval and was replaced by Marc Albrighton at half-time.
Against the run of play, Blackburn got themselves back in the game with a smart goal from Pedersen.
Hoilett did well on the left flank, dodging tackles before sending a penetrating cross into the box. Pedersen scored, beating the Villa centre-halves to the header six yards out.
However, the Lancashire side's revival was soon snuffed out.
Albrighton sent a shot from outside the box inches wide of the right-hand post as Villa went on the attack again.
Within a minute, Bent, who had enjoyed few chances in the match, had restored the two-goal advantage, pouncing on a rebound in the box following an effort from skipper Stiliyan Petrov.