Benteke brace seals win
Published 02/05/2015 | 17:16
Christian Benteke's brace inspired Aston Villa to a vital 3-2 victory over lacklustre Everton.
The red hot striker scored his ninth and 10th goals in eight games to ease Villa to a crucial win and maintain their cushion over the drop zone.
Tom Cleverley added a third just after Romelu Lukaku's penalty gave Everton hope of a comeback.
Phil Jagielka pulled a goal back in injury time but Villa hung on for just their fourth home league win of the season.
The hosts deserved their victory against the poor Toffees, who rarely showed the form which had seen them win five of their last six league games.
Villa are two points above the Barclays Premier League bottom three but are now, importantly, above free-falling Newcastle on goal difference in 14th.
Shay Given made his first top flight start since August 2012 - when he played against Everton - after Brad Guzan was dropped following a shaky performance in the defeat at Manchester City.
Charles N'Zogbia also replaced Carlos Sanchez while Everton brought in Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith.
The Toffees were one of the form teams in the Premier League, having beaten Manchester United 3-0 last week, but Villa's start made a mockery of their recent results.
The tenacious hosts looked to cut through Everton early and grabbed a deserved lead after just 10 minutes.
Benteke had threatened already, glancing a header wide, but this time he made it count when he powered in from Fabian Delph's wonderful cross.
N'Zogbia then tested Tim Howard with a low 35-yard free kick as Villa chased a second.
They stifled Everton with Lukaku and Aaron Lennon anonymous while Jack Grealish and N'Zogbia remained a threat behind Benteke.
And Grealish almost teed up Ron Vlaar for a second on 29 minutes but the defender headed his corner wide.
Given, ending a 980-day wait for a top flight game, had little to do with Villa cruising.
And they doubled their lead in first half stoppage time when Vlaar missed Grealish's corner but Benteke arrived unmarked at the far post to slam in his 13th goal of the season.
It was shocking marking from the Toffees but the breathing space Villa needed - and deserved - ahead of the break.
So poor in the first half, Everton demonstrated their threat after the re-start and Given turned Lukaku's low effort wide.
But there seemed little way back for Roberto Martinez's side until they were handed a lifeline on 59 minutes.
Villa failed to clear after Lukaku's run and Vlaar produced a clumsy tackle on Naismith for a penalty.
Lukaku calmly rolled in the spot kick for his 19th of the season to increase Villa's nerves.
But the hosts regained their two-goal advantage just six minutes later when Leandro Bacuna's precise through ball sent Cleverley clear and he fired high past Howard.
Gareth Barry and substitute Leon Osman fired straight at Given in reply but Villa had regained their composure.
Yet they were left to sweat in injury time when Given, under pressure, could only punch the ball against the bar and Jagielka headed in the rebound.