Agbonlahor inspires Villa to victory

ASTON VILLA climbed back into the top six of the Premiership after an inspired performance by Gabriel Agbonlahor helped them to overcome below-par Blackburn at Villa Park.

A disputed Gareth Barry penalty and leading scorer Juan Pablo Angel’s sixth goal of the campaign were sufficient to end a four-game run without a league victory.

But Blackburn boss Mark Hughes slammed referee Howard Webb for his penalty decision after a 40th-minute cross from Villa striker Chris Sutton appeared to strike the shoulder of Rovers defender Andre Ooijer.

Hughes also felt Webb should have awarded Rovers a second-half penalty when Morten Gamst Pedersen’s free-kick struck the arm of Stiliyan Petrov in the defensive wall.

Hughes said: “We think the penalty is a poor decision from the referee and his assistant. At that time we were quite comfortable in the game and Villa hadn’t really caused us that many problems.

“Although we never got to the level we needed to in the first 45 minutes, we were looking to get to half-time and have a real go in the second half.

“To concede the penalty in those circumstances was a big decision for the referee and they are paid to get big decisions right. He didn’t get that one right.

“Then in the second half Petrov, from our free-kick, has made a movement to the ball with his elbow. It strikes his elbow but the referee doesn’t give that one. I would question why he didn’t.

“I asked the assistant when he came off if he was sure he had got the decision right. I’m not quite sure how I can describe his reaction, whether he was a bit non-plussed by the fact I actually questioned his decision.

“Things happen quickly. I understand that but most people on the ground thought it was a harsh decision.”

Villa boss Martin O’Neill admitted that Webb could have awarded a penalty against Petrov after awarding the one against Ooijer. “I have seen the penalty again and I also saw the incident where Petrov was involved. If you give one, you probably have to give the other one. Some people said it was a very soft penalty, but I have seen them given. Then again, if that is the case, Petrov’s is the same from the free-kick.”

Opta Fact: Villa have taken more penalties than any other side this season — four. Rovers have conceded six penalties in the Premiership — more than any other side

ASTON VILLA: Sorensen, Hughes, Mellberg, Laursen, Bouma, Agbonlahor, Petrov, McCann, Barry, Angel, Sutton (Baros 90).

BLACKBURN: Friedel, Neill (Henchoz 85), Khizanishvili, Ooijer, Gray, Bentley, Mokoena, Kerimoglu (Peter 61), Pedersen, Nonda, McCarthy (Jeffers 61).

Referee: H Webb (S Yorkshire).

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