Villa come from behind to win

Aston Villa 3 Blackburn 2

Gareth Barry hit the target for the third successive match as Aston Villa came from behind to sustain their push for a top four place in the Barclays Premier League against Paul Ince’s side.

Rovers had stunned Martin O’Neill’s side by taking a first half lead through Stephen Warnock, as Villa struggled to fire on all cylinders.

Luke Young’s first goal for the club levelled matters on the stroke of the interval before Barry scored the decisive second in the 65th minute.

Gabriel Agbonlahor put the icing on the cake for Villa with three minutes remaining before Brett Emerton snatched an injury-time consolation.

England midfielder Barry had also struck the winning goal against Ajax in the UEFA Cup and set Villa on their way to a resounding 4-0 win at Wigan at the weekend.

Villa have endured a heavy schedule in recent weeks and struggled to reproduce their most fluent form. But they now have the fire-power in attack and from the middle of the park to carve open defences even when below their best.

The likes of Agbonlahor, John Carew and Ashley Young up front, plus Barry breaking forward from the centre of the park, give them plenty of options.

Blackburn were forced to make a late change to their starting line-up when striker Roque Santa Cruz suffered a calf injury during the pre-match warm-up.

He was replaced by Benni McCarthy, who had scored a late equaliser against Middlesbrough at the weekend while Aaron Mokoena was added to the Rovers substitutes.

Villa, unbeaten at home this season, persevered with a 4-5-1 formation with Agbonlahor as the lone central striker during a low key opening 45 minutes.

Agbonlahor showed his pace to get in behind the Rovers back four on the right flank and his measured centre picked out Ashley Young, who turned the ball to Barry.

He swivelled to square an inviting low pass across the danger area but no-one was on hand to apply the finishing touch.

Former Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel, who spent eight years at Ewood Park, turned aside a low drive from Andrews but Carlos Villanueva had strayed marginally offside in the build-up.

But after 30 minutes the home side were stunned when Rovers broke the deadlock with a well worked goal from Warnock.

Villanueva picked out McCarthy, who held the ball up before picking out the run into the box of Warnock – and the midfielder drilled a low shot past Friedel into the corner of the net.

Villa defender Carlos Cuellar blocked a low shot from Andrews before Villa forced Paul Robinson to make his first save of the game after 35 minutes.

Ashley Young curled in a trademark free-kick from 25 yards out which glanced off the head of Villa skipper Martin Laursen – but it flew straight at the former England number one.

James Milner produced his best play of the first half in turning in a tight situation and supplying a dangerous cross but Laursen could only glance his header past the far post.

Then on the stroke of half-time Luke Young brought Villa level with his first goal for the club since his £5million summer move from Middlesbrough.

Nicky Shorey clipped the ball into the box and the defender bundled the ball over the line at the second attempt after seeing his first attempt blocked.

O’Neill reacted after his side’s limp first half display by bringing on Carew for the second 45 minutes in place of Petrov.

But Brett Emerton came close to restoring Blackburn’s lead with a powerful long range drive which curled only a yard wide.

Good skill from Villanueva played in Warnock although he was unable to repeat the accuracy of his first half effort as he dragged his shot across the face of goal.

But the home side have sufficient firepower even on an off night and in the 65th minute Barry put them ahead.

Milner was the creator after receiving a pass from Ashley Young and he held off the challenge of Ooijer before cutting the ball across the box – and Barry did the rest with a simple tap-in.

It was the third game in a row that the 27-year-old had been on target for Villa.

Agbonlahor wrapped up the points with three minutes remaining when he converted a pass from Ashley Young. Emerton’s free-kick goal came too late to give Villa any concerns over the outcome.

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