Crewe 1-5 Villa report: Benteke the hat-trick hero
Christian Benteke staged a brilliant first-half blitz as Villa recorded their first win of pre-season.
Paul Lambert saw his reunited frontline turn on the style at Gresty Road with Benteke bagging a hat-trick, Andreas Weimann scoring with a sizzling long-range effort and Gabby Agbonlahor getting back to fitness.
Leandro Bacuna opened his Villa account with a left-foot thunderbolt, while it was a special night too for Ashley Westwood who wore the captain's armband against his hometown club.
There were plenty of encouraging signs as the visitors - inspired by their brilliant Belgian in attack - carved Crewe open time after time with some crisp passing and slick movement.
Just two minutes into his return from a hip injury, Weimann took Crewe keeper Steve Phillips by surprise with a cracking first-time shot.
Phillips got a hand to the Austrian's curling 25-yard effort but it wasn't enough to stop it nestling in the top corner.
Rampant Villa had the ball in the net for a second time a few minutes later when Antonio Luna pounced on a rebound from Karim El Ahmadi's shot, but the Spanish full-back was flagged offside.
Nobody could dispute Benteke's 11th-minute strike, though, which arrived thanks to Weimann's tireless work.
After winning the ball on the right flank, Weimann surged towards goal and unselfishly laid off to Benteke who finished from eight yards.
On 28 minutes, El Ahmadi brilliantly picked out Benteke with a clever through ball which the Belgian reacted to quickly before powering in to the net.
And six minutes later, the former Genk hitman had his hat-trick, this time cutting in from the left to fire across keeper Phillips.
The home side pulled one back just before the break when captain Harry Davis converted from Ryan Colclough's corner.
Once again Lambert made 10 changes on the hour mark, although Benteke still found time to cause the hosts more problems before departing the action.
Early in the second half, he produced a clever knockdown for Lowton who couldn't keep his half-volley down from the edge of the box.
The flurry of substitutions meant a first appearance for Nicklas Helenius since the Dane picked up a back injury at Villa's pre-season training camp.
Replacement keeper Jed Steer's first act was to thwart Ajay Leitch Smith, who found space behind the Villa back four.
Bacuna capped an encouraging display by finding the top corner with a thunderbolt left-foot shot from the edge of the area in the closing stages.
CREWE: Phillips, Tootle, Audel, Davis, Ellis, Turton, Clayton, Grant, Pogba, Leitch Smith, Colclough. Subs: Martin, Garratt, Moore, Mellor, Robertson, Dugdale, West, Ray, Ellington, Guthrie, Giverin.
VILLA: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar, Clark, Bacuna, El Ahmadi, Agbonlahor, Luna, Westwood, Benteke, Weimann. VILLA (After 60 mins): Steer, Donacien, Baker, Bacuna, Helenius, Delph, Sylla, Robinson, Herd, Gardner, Carruthers.