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Match report: Wigan 1-2 Villa

Bent and Houllier star in AVTV pre-match show ahead of Wigan Houllier praises Villa's mental toughness after Wigan victory
Match report: Wigan 1-2 Villa

By Rob Bishop

Villa recorded a second victory in the space of four days to make more important strides up the Barclays Premier League.

Gabby Agbonlahor's first league goal of the season gave Gerard Houllier's men a 50th minute lead before Ashley Young increased the advantage with a firmly-struck penalty 11 minutes later.

And even though James McCarthy raised Wigan's hopes with an 80th minute drive which deflected in off James Collins, Villa were good value for a result which was a perfect follow-up to Saturday's Darren Bent-inspired win over Manchester City.

There were two more Villa debuts at the DW Stadium.

Cameroon midfielder Jean Makoun made his first appearance since signing from French club Olympique Lyonnais, while 19-year-old Nathan Baker stepped in to deputise for Ciaran Clark at left-back.

Both played their parts in an important success in a game which could have yielded a much higher score-line.

The first 15 minutes alone produced enough chances for both sides to have scored at least once as they traded blow for blow.

After Agbonlahor had seen a third-minute shot blocked on the left-hand edge of the penalty area, Franco Di Santo met Emmerson Boyce's cross to plant a header on top of Villa's net.

Then Carlos Cuellar's quickly-taken free-kick picked out Bent, whose low shot was saved by Ali Al Habsi - but Wigan again responded positively as Hugo Rodallega's 30-yard drive was well held by Brad Friedel.

An excellent Villa move almost brought a breakthrough in the 12th minute. Richard Dunne and Bent were both involved in the build-up before Young's astute pass created a shooting opportunity for Stewart Downing.

The winger's low left-foot shot was saved at the foot of the near post by Al Habsi, with Bent's rebound effort being blocked by the keeper.

Back came the Latics, Rodellega's stinging drive bringing the best out of Friedel as the keeper spread himself beat the ball away to safety.

Almost immediately, home skipper Charles N'Zogbia sent a rising angled drive only narrowly over but the home side might easily have been reduced to 10 men when Bent appeared to be brought down by Steve Gohouri as he raced through the middle.

In the event, referee Jon Moss decided against awarding a free-kick, and having escaped a potential catastrophe, Wigan went close to a 25th-minute lead when Rodallega drove over from a good position following some enterprising play by McCarthy.

The remainder of the opening period was strangely devoid of goalmouth action but Villa were smartly out of the blocks after the interval to grab the lead following a sustained spell of pressure.

It started with a fine Bent pass which sent Young racing clear from the half-way line to unleash a tremendous 20-yard drive which Al Habsi pushed over for a corner.

James Collins met Young's flag-kick with a header which deflected for another corner - and this one brought a goal.

Cuellar's header from Young's kick was parried by Al Habsi, and as the ball looped into the air Agbonlahor jumped to nod it over the line from point-blank range.

As Wigan went in search of a quick equaliser, Rodallega's low shot struck Baker and went safely into Friedel's arms before Collins dived to head over his own bar to avert the a menacing cross from the right.

But after Stiliyan Petrov had replaced Makoun in the 57th minute, the visitors doubled their advantage four minutes later.

Young was tripped in the area by Henry Thomas and drove the resultant penalty firmly to Al Habsi's right as the keeper dived the other way.

The acting captain almost claimed a second when he sneaked behind the Latics defence for a cheeky flick which just failed to lift over Al Habsi.

But just when Villa were looking comfortable, Wigan were back in contention with a goal out of the blue 10 minutes from the end.

There seemed little danger when McCarthy tried his luck from 25 yards but the shot took a heavy deflection off Collins, leaving Friedel wrong-footed as it flew into the net.

That was the signal for a late Latics onslaught in which Rodellega and Ben Watson fired narrowly off target and Di Santo's header was saved by Friedel.

AVFC Official
By @AVFCOfficial 25th January 2011
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