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Christian Benteke eased Aston Villa's relegation fears and pushed bottom-placed Queens Park Rangers nearer to the drop as his late winner settled a pulsating Barclays Premier League clash.
Harry Redknapp’s side dominated the opening half at Villa Park and deservedly led through a goal from midfielder Jermaine Jenas, only for Gabriel Agbonlahor to level against the run of play. Andreas Weimann put the home side ahead early in the second half and, after Andros Townsend made it 2-2, Villa's Austrian striker set up the winner for Benteke. It was Benteke's seventh goal in the last eight league games and took his overall tally to 17 since his summer move.
For much of the first half, QPR looked a side brimming with confidence after their back-to-back wins against Southampton and Sunderland. Only heroics from Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan and the woodwork prevented the visitors wrapping up the points before half-time.
Villa seldom posed a threat during the opening 45 minutes, with Christopher Samba winning his aerial battle with Benteke. The home side woke up and looked more dangerous after the break with Weimann deserving his goal for an energetic and committed display. Benteke started to make his presence felt and his winner showed again why manager Paul Lambert believes he has doubled in value as a Villa player.
In the very early stages Villa knocked the ball around in confident style but when the visitors stepped up a gear it was Guzan who was forced into two excellent saves in the space of 60 seconds. The American first backpedalled to turn a looping header from Samba over the bar then made a second stop from a shot just inside the box by the QPR defender.
Villa were forced into a change after 20 minutes when Nathan Baker appeared to be concussed in an aerial challenge with Samba and was replaced by Joe Bennett. The left-back looked nervous from the outset with a misdirected pass helping Jermaine Jenas give QPR the lead after 23 minutes.
Bennett played a square pass just inside his own half which was seized on by Jenas who released Zamora in space. Zamora's low drive was parried by Guzan but Jenas continued his run into the box and was first to the loose ball to make no mistake from close range.
The woodwork came to Villa's rescue when Bosingwa's powerful free-kick struck a post before Agbonlahor levelled in first-half injury-time with a header from a right-wing cross from Matt Lowton.
Villa looked more dangerous after the interval and a Weimann header was tipped over by Julio Cesar from Bennett's cross. Then after 59 minutes Bennett atoned for his earlier error by setting up Weimann for his 11th goal of the season. The former Middlesbrough player showed good control before supplying the pass to Weimann, who cut inside before drilling a low left-footed shot past Julio Cesar from 15 yards. Lowton could have made it 3-1 but scuffed his shot across the face of goal.
Then with 17 minutes left the impressive Townsend made it 2-2. Loic Remy and Ji-Sung Park combined to tee up Townsend and his shot took a slight deflection as it flew past Guzan.
Villa responded and after 81 minutes Weimann turned goal-maker with his low cross turned in by Benteke after good play by substitute Charles N'Zogbia. This time QPR had no response and they now stand seven points adrift of safety with eight games to play.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "It was a great game for everybody in the stadium it never looked like two teams that were down there. QPR contributed to a great game and the chances that both teams had and some of the football I thought was excellent.
"I have to give my team a lot of credit. I thought 1-0 down was a bit harsh on us. At times Brad [Guzan] kept us in it with some terrific saves in the first half we got the goal right at the death of the first half which was a big goal for us.
"And we kept back out really strongly in second half got a good goal, Andy [Weimann] scores a terrific goal and then we are pegged back again and then Christian [Benteke] scores what proves to be the winner.
"Since the turn of the year we have grown together and grasped the Premiership which is testament to themselves and they deserve a lot of credit for what they are doing right now."
Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp: "We could have been three or four up and their 'keeper pulled off several world-class saves. They broke and scored and they came in at 1-1 and they couldn't believe their luck.
"We got back to 2-2 and gave a soppy third goal away. We were fantastic in the first half. I thought Clint Hill had scored in the top corner at the end, and sometimes you get the breaks. It is hard with the points situation but we are playing very well. That is all we can do with eight games to go."
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|06 Apr 2013||v Stoke (A)|
|13 Apr 2013||v Fulham (H)|
|22 Apr 2013||v Man Utd (A)|
|29 Apr 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|04 May 2013||v Norwich (A)|