Agbonlahor firing on all cylinders for Villa as Cardiff's hopes stall on the line

Aston Villa 1 Cardiff City 0
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The Independent Online

Gabriel Agbonlahor struck early and stylishly to end Cardiff City's hopes of repeating 2008's FA Cup heroics on the Carling Cup stage – but the Championship side left Villa Park convinced Jay Bothroyd had scored a legitimate equaliser in stoppage time.

Bothroyd hooked home after Gabor Gyepes had beaten Carlos Cuellar in the air, only for the referee's assistant to rule him offside. "I really want to throttle him [the referee, Anthony Taylor], but I can't," said Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager, tongue only half in cheek after saying he would try to be diplomatic ."I spoke to the referee, and I asked the linesman about it. I was well behaved, but I thought it was a goal," he added.

Martin O'Neill was relieved to record a sixth win in row and fourth straight clean sheet – especially after James Milner missed a penalty – and admitted he was "grateful" to the official. "I've seen it again on the video and it was very tight," the Villa manager said.

Agbonlahor's quick-fire goal was his fourth in successive matches after a confidence-sapping run in which he scored only four in 31. He met John Carew's cross with an exquisite flick, the ball rolling in with teasing slowness as Peter Enckelman realised it was beyond his reach.

"Agbonlahor is on fire at the moment, he is playing brilliantly for us," O'Neill said. "He has got so much confidence now. Three-quarters of the way through last season Gabby might not have attempted that one. I think that Cardiff were never out of it, and played some nice football, but we seemed to be in reasonable control."

Cardiff attacked slickly and Brad Guzan was the busier keeper, yet Milner had a chance to kill the tie on the hour after Gyepes felled Stilian Petrov following the move of the night. His spot-kick hit the left-hand upright, but Villa, with the help of a flag, edged into the last 16.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Guzan; Beye, Cuellar, Collins, Shorey; Gardner (Albrighton, 80), Petrov, Delph, Milner; Agbonlahor, Carew. Substitutes not used: Friedel (gk), Sidwell, Dunne, Delfouneso, Warnock, Clark.

Cardiff City (4-1-4-1): Enckelman; Matthews, Gyepes, Gerrard, Capaldi; Rae; Burke, Scimeca, Ledley, Whittingham; Bothroyd. Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Hudson, Chopra, Quinn, Comminges, Wildig, Magennis.

Referee: A Taylor (Greater Manchester).

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