Match report: Villa 3-1 Blackburn
Villa clinched a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup with a fine victory over Blackburn Rovers - the fourth time they have delivered a knockout blow to the Ewood Park outfit in the space of just over 12 months.
Goals from Ciaran Clark, Robert Pires and Nathan Delfouneso gave Gerard Houllier's men a deserved victory which was marred only by a red card for teenage left-back Nathan Baker on his home debut.
Baker's 62nd-minute dismissal for a foul on Junior Hoilett left Villa to fight a rearguard action for the final half-hour but they rarely looked like surrendering the lead they had established in the first half.
Clark opened the scoring with a ninth-minute header and although Rovers were soon level through Nikola Kalinic, French midfielder Pires restored the lead with his first Villa goal before Delfouneso added number three with a superb header.
Even before Clark's opening goal, Villa had been the brighter team, Barry Bannan sending a shot over from the edge of the penalty area following a cross from Kyle Walker, while Emile Heskey had a shot blocked at the expense of a corner.
And although Michel Salgado fired into the side netting at the other end, the home side were good value for their lead.
Clark was unfortunate to see his header from Pires' left-wing corner cleared for another flag kick, but when Bannan delivered from the right, the central defender's powerful header left keeper Paul Robinson helpless.
Delfouneso then hooked over following Gabby Agbonalhor's cross from the left but Rovers were level on 18 minutes.
Hoilett's fine through ball enabled Salgado to get in a dangerous centre from the right, and Kalinic, who had replaced the injured Roque Santa Cruz just before Villa's goal, applied the finishing touch from six yards.
Brad Friedel clawed the ball away but it had clearly crossed the line. After Bannan had produced some delightful footwork to fire over from 30 yards, Villa were back in front when Prires drove home emphatically in the 39th minute as the ball fell invitingly to him following a cross from the left.
Once again, Blackburn responded positively, Pires clearing off the line from Kalinic's close-range shot before Friedel superbly tipped away Chris Samba's header from a Morten Gamst Pedersen corner.
But on 42 minutes Villa extended their lead when Delfouneso met Baker's fine cross from the left with a perfectly-placed header just inside the near post.
Martin Olsson was unlucky not to reduce the deficit with a thundering angled left-foot drive which struck the bar just before half-time but Villa were back in the ascendancy after the interval, Baker heading just wide of the far post from a deep Pires corner.
Then Walker embarked on a run reminiscent of those which brought goals for himself and Stiliyan Petrov in the third round win at Sheffield United, only for his fierce shot to be blocked on the edge of the penalty area.
Keith Andrews wasted a good chance for the visitors on the hour mark, heading Hoilett's inviting centre wide from a good position, and two minutes later Villa were reduced to 10 men when Baker was shown the red card for his challenge on Hoilett on the half-way line.
With Baker off, Clark moved to left-back and substitute James Collins took over in central defence.
Hardly surprisingly, Villa came under increasing pressure, although they defended firmly - and almost grabbed a fourth goal on the break.
Stewart Downing intercepted a pass intended for Salgado on the half-way line and sprinted to the corner of the penalty area before unleashing a drive which was tipped away by Robinson.
And almost immediately a Downing header was almost turned into the net by Vince Grella.
In stoppage time Clark completed an excellent performance with a crucial goal-line clearance which epitomised Villa's battling spirit.
Go to full match coverage for Aston Villa 3 - 1 Blackburn (29th January 2011) >
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