Benteke hits hat-trick to keep Villa out of drop zone
Aston Villa 3 Queens Park Rangers 3
Christian Benteke's hat-trick rescued a crucial point for Aston Villa in a thrilling draw with relegation rivals QPR.
The striker levelled matters to complete his treble with just seven minutes left after QPR looked to have done enough to climb out of the bottom three and leapfrog Villa.
Clint Hill and Charlie Austin had fired Rangers 3-2 ahead after the break following Benteke’s first-half double, which had cancelled out Matt Phillips’ opener.
Benteke ended a manic, utterly absorbing relegation scrap spiced with dreadful defending as well as some great goals, on his haunches, shaking his head, frustrated that his work had yielded only one point as well as one match-ball.
Yet the QPR striker Bobby Zamora also departed towards the tunnel shaking his head, as his team remain in the relegation positions and will be annoyed they could not hold to the lead at 3-2 when Benteke equalised late on with a fine free-kick helped by a poor wall.
A fixture denied a live televising showing produced some of the most relentless attacking of the season with Benteke and Gabby Agbonlahor excelling for Villa.
Jack Grealish made his league first start for Villa and provided glimpses of his huge promise.
Zamora was a willing target-man for the visitors, while Austin’s finish was exquisite.
Earlier in the day, there was a boost for QPR when Richard Dunne came through 81 minutes for the club’s U-21 side in their meeting with Millwall.
Dunne was initially expected to miss the remainder of the season when he damaged his medial ligaments in February but he now is contention for a return to the fold within the next fortnight.