Safety almost assured for Villa
Published 03/05/2014 | 17:37
Andreas Weimann scored a priceless brace against Hull to all but guarantee Aston Villa's Barclays Premier League place for another season.
Weimann, without a goal in 12 matches dating back to January, delivered just when his side needed it most with a pair of headers in the four minutes before half-time at Villa Park.
The Austrian's intervention, which took his season's tally to six, turned a nervy 1-1 scoreline into a 3-1 lead which the hosts preserved to claim a first win in seven outings.
Ashley Westwood had put Villa ahead after just 58 seconds but they surrendered the lead when Jordan Bowery turned Liam Rosenior's low cross into his own goal.
Victory takes Paul Lambert's side to 38 points and they can only be dragged down if Norwich win both their remaining matches as well as effecting a huge swing in goal difference.
With the Canaries away to Chelsea on Sunday and hosting Arsenal next weekend, Villa fans can safely shelve their relegation fears.
Hull, a point further back with 37, are also unlikely to be hauled in by Norwich but their three-game winless run bodes ill for their FA Cup final appearance against the Gunners on May 17.
Villa got off to the dream start as they took the lead from their first attack.
Gabriel Agbonlahor did the hard work, motoring past Rosenior as the pair jostled on the halfway line.
Agbonlahor then showcased the other side of his game, barging past Curtis Davies before cutting back from the left wing.
Marc Albrighton fluffed his first-time finish but recovered to lay the ball across the area to Westwood, who swept home clinically.
The crowd erupted as their nervous energy gave way to raucous celebration and the home side responded by dominating the next 20 minutes.
Fabian Delph and Westwood were in complete control of the midfield, with Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone chasing shadows.
Steve Bruce responded by switching from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2, but it was an old fashioned set-piece rather than tactical tinkering that brought the equaliser.
After Livermore won a free-kick in dangerous territory, Huddlestone suckered Villa by feigning to shoot and slipping Rosenior into the left channel.
He sent the ball across the area, doing enough to panic Bowery - on for the injured Agbonlahor - into a messy own-goal.
The silence from the stands was deafening and for the next few minutes Villa seemed spooked.
Had Huddlestone's left-footed drive not been saved by a diving Brad Guzan, things would surely have taken a turn for the worse.
Instead, Villa reclaimed the initiative in the 41st minute.
Hull had numerous chances to clear their lines, Nathan Baker twice rising highest only to be denied by the crossbar and Nikica Jelavic's block.
Weimann, quickest to react to the latter deflection, settled the issue from close range.
The Austrian's second, added as Hull sleepwalked into first-half injury time, was one to treasure.
Bowery did well to make space and provide a tempting cross from the left, but Weimann's leap and precision header across goal was superb.
Stephen Quinn replaced David Meyler in a half-time switch for Hull but the difference was little more than superficial.
Villa were comfortable with their lead and Bowery had two chances to extend it before the hour mark, testing Harper at his near post on both occasions.
In between Jelavic scuffed a big chance for Hull, a miss borne of long periods of isolation up front.
The Croatian was hooked in the 70th minute for Yannick Sagbo, the man most likely to benefit from Jelavic and Shane Long being cup-tied for the final.
Weimann was replaced with 10 minutes remaining, his hat-trick hopes gone but something much more precious already achieved for his side.