Blackburn Rovers 0 Aston Villa 4: Carew turns tide to leave Rovers beached

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The Independent Online

Villa moved up to sixth place in the Premier League with the help of a penalty and a sending off that suddenly tilted the contest their way. Ryan Nelsen was dismissed on 52 minutes for conceding the kick that put Villa two up.

"He's given it for a shirt pull and it was probably the right decision but I didn't think it warranted him being sent off," said the Blackburn manager, Mark Hughes.

Villa's Martin O'Neill, savouring a third away win in a row, also had his doubts about whether Nelsen needed to go, but had no doubts that the penalty was justified. "And we went on to play very well in the second half," he said.

Villa dominated the opening stages, but David Dunn was the first to oblige his manager's instructions to test any post-Wembley nerves Scott Carson might have with a volley after nine minutes that the England goalkeeper could only parry.

Carson did rather better to hold on from Nelsen a couple of minutes later. Far more demanding was a curling free-kick from David Bentley that he did well to turn away 15 minutes into what was beginning to look like a busy night. Five minutes later, Rovers did have the ball in the net but Benni McCarthy was just offside when Roque Santa Cruz delivered the final pass.

A marginal decision to flag Santa Cruz added to the feeling that Villa were hanging on rather precariously. What they managed to summon up on the counter attack tended to batter itself out harmlessly on the towering figure of Christopher Samba.

After 29 minutes, however, and completely against the run of play, the equally imposing John Carew got free in the penalty area to meet Ashley Young's free-kick with his head and Villa were one up.

It would have been worse for Blackburn if Carew had been equally adept with his feet when set up by some lovely trickery from Stiliyan Petrov.

McCarthy could hardly believe his bad luck early in the second half when his goal-bound volley hit Wilfred Bouma on the side of the head with the Villa defender knowing nothing about it until he felt the shuddering impact.

Far more stunning was what happened to Blackburn next. Nelsen was adjudged to have pulled back Gabriel Agbonlahor and referee, Phil Dowd, not only awarded the penalty but also brandished a red card at the Blackburn captain.

Gareth Barry put away the spot kick and Blackburn felt all the more aggrieved when they had a penalty appeal of their own turned down at the other end of the ground when the ball appeared to strike the still groggy Bouma.

Hughes brought on Jason Roberts and Steven Reid to try and salvage something, but the 10 men had the beaten look.

They found themselves overstretched nine minutes from time when Young fired home from the angle of the area to put the issue beyond any doubt even before Marlon Harewood's goal two minutes from time.

Blackburn (4-4-2): Friedel; Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock; Emerton, Bentley (Pedersen, 82), Mokoena (Reid, 67), Dunn, Santa Cruz; McCarthy (Roberts, 67). Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Savage.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Carson; Mellberg, Knight, Laursen, Bouma; Petrov (Gardner, 82), Reo-Coker, Barry, Young; Carew, Agbonlahor (Harewood, 85). Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Davies, Berger.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).