Aston Villa relieved the pressure on Paul Lambert and all but assured Barclays Premier League survival with a 3-1 win over Hull City at Villa Park.
The hosts came into Saturday's game having taken just one point from their previous six matches, but Ashley Westwood's early strike and two goals from Andreas Weimann sparked celebrations among the Villa faithful. Paul Lambert's side are six points clear of 18th-placed Norwich City with only two matches remaining.
After Westwood's first-minute opener, Hull replied shortly before the half-hour when Villa substitute Jordan Bowery put through his own net. Weimann took centre stage in the closing stages of the opening half, twice heading in as Lambert’s side secured a first home win since March 15. The defeat leaves Steve Bruce’s side still without a win since securing their place at the FA Cup final and looking over their shoulders at the bottom three. However, they will be safe if Norwich fail to win at Chelsea on Sunday.
The West Midlands side made a blistering start, taking the lead inside 60 seconds through Westwood's composed finish. Gabriel Agbonlahor played an influential role, breaking free down the left and cutting the ball back for Marc Albrighton, who poked a pass into the path of Westwood and the midfielder took a touch before planting a shot beyond Steve Harper.
Agbonlahor departed the action midway through the half after picking up a knock, and his replacement Bowery unwittingly brought the visitors level in the 28th minute. Tom Huddlestone slid a disguised free-kick into the path of Liam Rosenior and his low cross was turned into the net as Bowery got his feet in a tangle.
Huddlestone brought a flying save out of Brad Guzan six minutes later but a tthe other end Harper had to rush from his line to deny Weimann and then tip Bowery's header over the crossbar as the game opened up.
Weimann was not to be denied for long, however, nodding in from close range after Nathan Baker hit the bar in the 41st minute. Villa Park was jubilant as he was on target again in first-half stoppage time, glancing in Bowery's left-wing delivery from 10 yards.
In a second half that offered little in comparison with the first, Bowery tested Harper with a rising drive on the hour, while Guzan got down low to his left to hold Huddlestone's effort from the edge of the box 15 minutes from time. Bruce’s side were unable to force a way back into proceedings as the game petered out.
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert: “I thought we were excellent. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in some really big games and that was right up there. The pressure of that was incredible but I thought we were excellent, I really did.
“We lost Gabby (Agbonlahor) really early doors as well, which was a blow, but I thought Bowery came on and he was excellent for us. With that performance, I thought we thoroughly deserved to win the game.
“They (the fans) were excellent, which I had a feeling they would be. They played a huge part – that was proper support behind us.”
Hull City manager Steve Bruce said: "The way we started the game was the way we finished the first half, so sloppy and awful in our defending.
"The reason we've got to where we've got to is the ability to be resilient and defend right and we were awful in that department.
"That's not just the back three or four, it's the whole team, we didn't get started.”
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|11 May 2014||v Spurs (A)|
|20 Dec 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|26 Dec 2014||v Swansea (A)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Aston Villa (H)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Aston Villa (H)|