To see the best match pictures, scroll to “Photostream” above left. Managers' reaction below.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert again excluded Darren Bent but saw his replacement Christian Benteke score a late winner in a 1-0 victory over fellow strugglers Reading. The Belgium striker ended a four-game run without a goal when he headed home an Ashley Westwood corner with 10 minutes remaining. Villa’s third win of the season moved them out of the Barclays Premier League bottom three. The three points were deserved, however, as the hosts enjoyed the bulk of possession and looking the more threatening team throughout.
Bent was left out of Lambert’s matchday plans for the second successive game with Jordan Bowery, who has impressed in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League this season, again preferred on the substitutes’ bench. Villa, who fielded eight players aged 23 or under, enjoyed the bulk of the possession and the recalled Brett Holman impressed in central midfield.
Reading looked more solid than in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat at Wigan but seldom posed a threat to a solid Villa back four in which Ciaran Clark again impressed. Hal Robson-Kanu had the first attempt on goal after being found in space by Jason Roberts but he curled his shot wide of the far post. The first meaningful save came when Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici went down to his right to smother a low Benteke shot after the impressive Holman had supplied the low cross.
Villa were forced to make a change after 24 minutes when left-back Enda Stevens limped off to be replaced by Eric Lichaj. Weimann passed up a golden chance to break the deadlock three minutes later. Benteke created a yard of space inside the box before finding Weimann unmarked at the far side of the six-yard box but he fired high over. The recalled Nathan Baker got on the end of an inswinging Bannan corner but sent his downward header past a post, while Clark glanced a header wide from another Bannan cross.
Baker flicked a Bannan corner wide at the start of the second half and Clark was not far off target with a header from the same source. But Reading gradually came more into the game and Roberts cut inside before seeing his shot blocked by the legs of Brad Guzan. The game appeared to be heading for a stalemate but with 10 minutes left Benteke settled the issue.
Lambert’s summer signing from Genk climbed above the Royals defence and his downward header flew past Federici. The Villa manager could not contain his delight but knows there is still much work to be done before his young side banish fears of the drop.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "It was a big result because we knew the Arsenal game at the weekend would take a lot out of us. Reading had also played well against Wigan so knew it would be a tough game.But I don't know about it being a six-pointer. Never look at things now, look in May.
"Darren [Bent] was in the squad, it was the same on Saturday. I just picked the same group. I do what think is best for Aston Villa. But honestly, I don't have a problem with Darren Bent and I do rate him as a player.”
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "I thought we were going to get a point. I knew the first goal was going to be crucial. The shape of the team was good but to lose the goal from a set-piece was disappointing.
"I thought we had solved the late goal problem. But it's not a six-pointer. It's a game of football and we've got a game of football to look forward to against Manchester United at the weekend."
|01 Dec 2012||v QPR (A)|
|08 Dec 2012||v Stoke (H)|
|15 Dec 2012||v Liverpool (A)|
|23 Dec 2012||v Chelsea (A)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Tottenham (H)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Wigan (H)|