Reading 1 Aston Villa 2 match report: Christian Benteke helps Aston Villa breathe life into their survival plan

Paul Lambert's side move out of bottom three with crucial win over fellow strugglers Reading

the madejski stadium

Aston Villa do not usually do comebacks. Their powers of recovery in the Premier League this season had been almost non-existent, with only two points salvaged after they had gone behind. Make that five now, the three gleaned against Reading at the Madejski Stadium yesterday as crucial as any they may muster between now and the end of a miserable campaign.

Watch the highlights of the match here

Winning for only the second time in 12 matches, after trailing 1-0, was important enough. Yet to do it against one of their main rivals for the drop will have done wonders for their self-esteem. That the unthinkable – Villa to be relegated – was becoming highly possible just about sums up a season mostly of woe in the West Midlands.

Villa are not out of it yet. Victory did allow them to climb out of the bottom three but it is little more than a smidgeon of breathing space, a brief respite before another dog-fight beckons against fellow stragglers Queens Park Rangers at Villa Park next Saturday.

"This was a massive game and the players knew that," Paul Lambert, the Villa manager, said. "They knew that the pressure was on them, they didn't need to be told. But some of our football was excellent and we didn't look like a team in a corner, that's for sure."

The pre-match omens had not been good, with neither team in great form. It was a recipe for a nerve-ridden encounter and so it proved. Few players showed any confidence on the ball; a few barely seemed to want it. It made for grim viewing but at least contained enough incidents to maintain the interest of the neutral. Brad Guzan, the Villa goalkeeper, made a spectacular early save to keep out an Adam Le Fondre header and Christian Benteke thumped a header against the home crossbar.

Andreas Weimann shot wide and the catalogue of mistakes continued unabated, culminating in Reading going ahead. Jobi McAnuff's cross was miscued by Hope Akpan and the hapless Nathan Baker sliced the ball into his own net.

Reading's joy barely lasted a minute. Weimann cut in from the right and fed Benteke, whose close-range effort took a generous deflection off Stephen Kelly and wrong-footed Stuart Taylor, the Reading keeper. It was Benteke's 16th goal of the season and, thus, Villa became the eighth club to amass 1,000 Premier League goals.

It was not long before 1,001 arrived, shortly before half-time. Again, the Reading defence contributed significantly to its own downfall. Matthew Lowton nodded the ball goalwards, Barry Bannan instinctively jabbed an attempt against a post and Gabby Agbonlahor thundered the rebound into the roof of the net.

Reading could hardly comprehend the scoreline and left the pitch to a chorus of jeers at the break. Their mood did not improve after the interval, when Noel Hunt bundled in Le Fondre's cross at the far post, only to be flagged offside. "It was close, but the benefit of doubt has been given to the defender," Brian McDermott, the Reading manager, said. "Not many decisions are going our way at the moment."

Villa appeared to settle early for the slender victory, retreating further into their own half and inviting Reading on to them. Nick Blackman, a substitute, twice went close, but Villa held on.

With home matches against QPR and Liverpool coming up, they have given themselves hope. Reading face successive away trips to Manchester United and Arsenal.

Whatever hope they had is fading fast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'