Aston Villa 2 Charlton Athletic 0: Agbonlahor and Moore give lift to Lerner's start

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The Independent Online

Life gets better and better for Aston Villa - and ever worse for Charlton Athletic. Two sides heading in opposite directions under new management were divided by fine goals from two of Villa's bright young things as Randy Lerner found much more to savour in his first Premiership game as chairman than in his country's Ryder Cup fortunes.

It was predictable enough, given that Charlton have now lost five League games out of six while Villa's four-wins-from-six return is based on a 100 per cent home record. What is more surprising is Villa's fourth place in the table. "We will find our level eventually but the players have far exceeded my hopes so far,'' said their manager, Martin O'Neill. "We looked a bit tentative in the first half and Charlton caused us some problems. I thought we played some exceptional stuff in the second half, though.''

Lerner had barely taken his seat in the directors' box when Villa had the first of several early escapes. Olof Mellberg was at fault in not cutting out a long through ball and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's clear run ended with an angled low drive that Thomas Sorensen deflected into the side netting.

Poor Villa marking at corners gave Charlton two more fleeting sights of goal but the tide wasn't long in turning. Luke Moore saw a low shot gathered by Scott Carson before the build-up of pressure brought the 36th minute breakthrough. Gareth Barry crossed deep from the left and Hermann Hreidarsson let Gabriel Agbonlahor escape him and stab home a right-foot volley from six yards. It was the youngster's first goal of the season and he and fellow scorer Moore were always a handful.

As much as anyone, they crushed any ambitions Iain Dowie might have nursed of his team's first half attacking enterprise helping to avert a seventh successive away defeat. After Hasselbaink turned sharply onto Dennis Rommedahl's pass to bring a superb save from Sorensen, their task took on a familiar uphill appearance with a gem of a second Villa goal just past the hour.

Juan Pablo Angel, fed by Barry, weighted his through ball perfectly between Talal El Karkouri and Bryan Hughes for Moore to sprint away and finish with some aplomb with his right foot.

Dowie, responding with a double substitution, might now have been as concerned with damage limitation as genuine salvation as Charlton's performance lapsed into anonymity. Agbonlahor, typifying Villa's youthful confidence, then completely wrong-footed the back-pedalling Hreidarsson, only to finish tamely when a third goal beckoned.

Charlton, without a Premiership away win since last October, are one place and one point off the bottom and Dowie admitted: "It was disappointing we didn't show the same desire when we went two down. That was a huge mental blow."

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