English Premiership

Villa ease relegation fears

2011-01-26 06:43
Gabriel Agbonlahor (AP)
London - Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young gave Aston Villa a 2-1 victory at Wigan on Tuesday to lift the team six points clear of the Premier League relegation zone.

But it was a nervy conclusion for the visitors after James McCarthy pulled one back in 80th minute for Wigan, who are in the drop zone.

Villa, who beat Manchester City on Saturday, have now won successive league matches for the first time this season.

Wigan had the first opportunity when Franco Di Santo headed wide from a Charles N’Zogbia cross.

Villa then began to assert themselves and new signing Darren Bent brilliantly controlled a long ball and pulled back inside the makeshift defender Steven Caldwell only to scuff his shot.

Wigan keeper Ali Al Habsi then produced two fine point-blank saves in quick succession to deny Stewart Downing and Bent after a pass from Agbonlahor had opened up the defense.

In a lively opening Wigan responded with N’Zogbia setting up Hugo Rodallega but the Colombian’s shot was deflected and American goalkeeper Brad Friedel parried. N’Zogbia also went close after a fine run but his shot dipped over.

After the initial burst the game settled as both defences tightened up and it needed Villa to up the tempo for the start of the second half when Young raced into the area from the halfway line and forced Al Habsi to palm over a fierce drive. The visitors grabbed the lead from the resulting corner in the 49th minute.

Again Al Habsi did well to keep out Carlos Cuellar’s firm header but the ball ballooned into the air and Agbonlahor reacted quickest to nod it over the line as it came down.

The game opened up again and Young doubled Villa’s lead from the penalty spot after being brought down clumsily by Hendry Thomas just after the hour.

Bent almost grabbed a third for Villa as he raced onto an Agbonlahor through-ball but Al Habsi rushed out to deny him again.

Wigan did not give up the fight and pulled a goal back 10 minutes from time, although it did require a huge slice of luck.

There seemed little danger as James McCarthy lined up a shot from 25 meters but the ball took a huge deflection off Villa defender James Collins and wrong-footed Friedel to end up in the bottom corner.

The Wigan fans thought they had an equalizer to celebrate moments later when Rodallega flashed a shot just wide from the edge of the area.

Argentine striker Di Santo also headed at Friedel as Wigan put Villa under late pressure but could not force the equaliser.

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