Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats. Manager reaction below.
Christian Benteke scored a hat-trick as Aston Villa demolished Sunderland 6-1 at Villa Park on Monday night.
Ron Vlaar's screamer on 31 minutes was swiftly equalised by Danny Rose but Andreas Weimann slotted Villa's second home before the Belgium striker took over in the second half to blow Paolo Di Canio's side away, with Stephane Sessegnon also being shown a red card for the away side.
Paul Lambert made one change from his side's defeat by Manchester United a week earlier with Yacouba Sylla replacing Charles N'Zogbia while Sunderland brought in Phil Bardsley for Jack Colback and Craig Gardner returned from suspension with James McClean making way.
Gabriel Agbonlahor wasted a glorious opportunity to give Villa an early lead as he picked the ball up 35 yards from goal and, after a neat interchange with Benteke, found himself with only Simon Mignolet to beat, but he put his effort wide.
The game sparked into life after 30 minutes as both sides scored in a matter of minutes. Villa captain Vlaar picked the ball up 30 yards from goal after Ashley Westwood's shot was blocked and arrowed a marvellous strike into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Sunderland responded immediately and were level just two minutes later. Rose knocked a neat a one-two with Danny Graham, driving into the box and placing his shot beyond the outstretched arm of Brad Guzan in the Villa goal.
As the game became frantic, Villa once more gained the initiative when Matthew Lowton intercepted a cross-field pass, advanced inside and played a quick ball to the left to Weimann, who took a touch into the box before coolly passing the ball into the corner to restore the home-side's lead.
The visitors had the ball in the net again before half-time. Former Villa man Gardner prodded in but referee Lee Probert had called play back for Danny Graham clattering Guzan.
After a tense opening to the second half, Benteke came to life and netted his first in the 54th minute. Agbonlahor created space for the left-footed shot, which took a deflection to leave Mignolet off balance and he could only parry it to Benteke, who headed into the empty goal.
The Belgian put the game beyond all doubt just five minutes later when he leapt above Carlos Cuellar to meet a Westwood corner that he powered into the bottom of the net to leave Sunderland reeling.
Things went from bad to worse for Di Canio as Sessegnon was shown a straight red card for a late, studs-up challenge on Sylla. After the match Di Canio said Sunderland would appeal the decision, which could end the forward's season early.
The fifth goal followed soon after as Benteke completed his treble in the 72nd minute. Carlos Cuellar could only knock an Agbonlahor pass into the striker's path and he kept his composure to place a left-shot beyond the goalkeeper.
With the jubilant home crowd demanding a sixth, they got their wish as Agbonalhor latched on to a loose back-pass from substitute David Vaughan, before rounding Mignolet and tapping into the unguarded net.
The win moves Villa five points above 18th-placed Wigan, and they now have a better goal difference than Roberto Martinez's side, whom they face on the last day of the season.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: "[Benteke]'s been absolutely world-class. For somebody who has just come to this country, he's been absolutely brilliant. A great compliment for him is that I've always said he is a real, humble guy and if he keeps that, and keeps his feet on the ground, and keeps working hard, he can be anything.
"For his goal from the corner he jumped the height of the crossbar, which was outstanding!
"First and foremost we had to try and win the game, which we did do, and the goal difference has swung again. We were a few behind before tonight, but to get the goals in the way we did has given us great impetus to go to Norwich on Saturday, and try and win another game.I wouldn't like to go into the last game to try and stay up.
"We've put a lot of teams in the mix and pulled away from Wigan. We've played really well and that's all you can ask for at this stage of the season. I hope we can keep doing that."
Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio: “It's a very bad defeat and our performance I'm not very happy about, obviously, but probably we thought the main job was done. If the team has performed in this way, the first person responsible is the manager, and also the players, but the signals we probably didn't read in the week.
"Maybe this is a medicine in some way that can let us understand that we have to play with desire, commitment, otherwise we are going to have difficulty. This humiliation can help the players, the manager, the staff. We need a minimum of another three points. We can do it, but it was unacceptable the performance we made tonight.
"There was one team that played like it was the last chance of their life, which was Villa, and a team that was probably a little full in the stomach because of the last two wins in a row."
|04 May 2013||v Norwich (A)|
|11 May 2013||v Chelsea (H)|
|19 May 2013||v Wigan (A)|
|15 Mar 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|23 Mar 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|29 Mar 2014||v Man Utd (A)|