Match report: Villa 4-1 Blackburn
Villa's sizzling second half performance left Blackburn bemused and earned them three invaluable Barclays Premier League points.
After a fairly tame first half at Villa Park, Gerard Houllier's men turned on the style for an emphatic victory.
Ashley Young opened the scoring with a 49th-minute penalty to claim the club's 500th Premier League home goal and after that Villa were in irrepressible mood.
Grant Hanley's 62nd-minute own goal doubled the lead before Young sent Stewart Downing racing away to make it 3-0 a couple of minutes later.
And although substitute Nikola Kalinic pulled one back for Rovers on 80 minutes, the three-goal advantage was quickly restored, Downing returning the favour to his skipper for Young his drill home his second.
It was just a pity youngster Nathan Baker had to go off in the 36th minute after suffering a head injury, although Fabian Delph did a fine job as his replacement at left-back.
A rising Robert Pires shot which flew over the bar was the only real threat during a low-key opening but in the 11th minute Villa fashioned a fine move which almost brought them the lead.
Nigel Reo-Coker began the move deep in his own half with a pass to Young, who quickly moved it forward to Darren Bent. The striker's low left-foot shot was too hot for Paul Robinson to handle, although the keeper managed to gather at the second attempt.
The best the visitors could muster at that stage was a Martin Olsson shot which was wide of the left-hand post and a far-post Ryan Nelsen header which was well over following Morten Gamst Pedersen's corner.
That came after Downing and Baker had both required treatment after clashing heads - and poor Baker was again in the wars when he ventured into the visitors goalmouth and felt the full force of Robinson's fist as the keeper punched clear.
To add insult to injury, referee Martin Atkinson awarded a free-kick to Rovers, and Baker, clearly feeling groggy, was replaced by Delph.
In the meantime, Villa's appeals for a penalty had been waved aside when Darren Bent was brought down by Nelsen, while Pires drove wide following a fine move involving Bent and Downing.
It had been hard going for Villa, although they were close to scoring on numerous occasions in the closing stages of the opening period.
First a tremendous Pires drive was punched out by Robinson, who made an almost identical save a couple of minutes later when Kyle Walker unleashed an even more powerful shot from 25 yards.
Then the keeper, having failed to hold a Pires chip, just managed to scoop the ball away as Bent moved in for the kill.
But the best chance so far came in first half stoppage time when Pedersen's poor back-pass left Bent in an inviting position.
Rather than shooting, however, he attempted to go past Nelsen and was dispossessed by the Rovers skipper.
There were good chances at either end within a minute of the re-start. A Jermaine Jones shot was pushed away for a corner by Brad Friedel, but Villa responded with a quick break which saw Downing's shot deflected wide following a superb Pires pass.
The home side finally made the breakthrough they deserved when Young was dragged to the ground by Keith Andrews after dispossessing the former Wolves midfielder. The captain picked himself up to drive the resultant spot kick hard and low to Robinson's right - and suddenly Villa were buzzing.
There was a touch of fortune about the second goal, although it highlighted the team's sheer persistence. Dunne's header from a right-wing corner went only as far as Albrighton on the left, and when the winger drilled the ball hard and low across a crowded goalmouth it flew into the net off Hanley's knee.
Two minutes later, the points were effectively secured. Young was fouled as he released Downing on the half-way line but the referee waved play-on and Downing outpaced the visitors defence down the right before switching to his left to stroke a precise shot beyond Robinson and into the far corner.
Albrighton attempted to put his name on the scoresheet with two shots which were both saved by Robinson before Nikola Kalinic reduced the deficit in the 80th minute, the Coatian striker's 20-yard shot clipping Dunne's boot and dipping over a stranded Friedel.
But less than two minutes later Villa restored their three-goal advantage, Downing playing the ball inside for Young to thump an unstoppable 12-yard shot inside the near post.
There was almost a fifth goal in the 88th minute, substitute Emile Heskey stabbing just wide of the near post from Downing's low cross.
To complete a miserable afternoon for the visitors, Nelsen was sent off for a second bookable offence when he brought down Young just outside the penalty area in stoppage time.
Go to full match coverage for Aston Villa 4 - 1 Blackburn (26th February 2011) >
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