Aston Villa 2 Blackburn 0
Aston Villa climbed back into the top six of the Barclaycard 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 the star of the show was England Under-21 international Agbonlahor who constantly caused Rovers problems with his pace and quality crossing from the right flank.
Blackburn looked leg weary after their UEFA Cup exertions against Basle on Thursday and they could have few complaints about the outcome as Villa preserved their unbeaten home record.
Rovers boss Mark Hughes had every right to be aggrieved about the spot-kick award against Andre Ooijer.
But his side were second best in all departments for lengthy periods as they slumped to a third successive Premiership reversal.
Chris Sutton impressed on his full debut alongside Angel who has been a transformed figure since the arrival of Martin O’Neill as manager three months ago.
But the return of Gavin McCann after a three game absence with a calf problem in the centre of midfield also made a big difference while Gareth Barry was his usual impressive self on the left.
Blackburn posed little threat but on the few occasions they threatened Villa defender Martin Laursen provided a formidable barrier.
Villa did most of the early pressing and Stiliyan Petrov went close when his shot from the edge of the Blackburn box took a deflection off Lucas Neill and flew inches wide.
Petrov’s resulting corner was turned by Agbonlahor back into the path of Martin Laursen and he would have been disappointed not to have at least hit the target as he dragged his shot across the face of goal.
Angel had a chance when he seized onto Barry’s through ball after staying on-side and dinked the ball past Michael Gray but the Rovers defender recovered to make a timely tackle.
Sutton was making his presence felt and he made good contact with a volley from a Agbonlahor centre which looked goal-bound but it was inadvertently blocked by Tugay.
Villa ’keeper Thomas Sorensen was tested for the first time after 37 minutes when he finger-tipped over a fierce David Bentley drive.
Then after 40 minutes Barry put Villa ahead from the penalty spot.
Ooijer was harshly adjudged to have handled Sutton’s centre after he had moved onto a pass from Petrov was booked by referee Howard Webb.
Rovers protested fiercely at the spot-kick award but it made no difference and up stepped Barry to drill home Villa’s seventh penalty of the campaign.
Gray needed to come across and deny Angel before Khizanishvili was yellow-carded for hauling down Sutton.
Petrov had a 25 yarder deflected over the bar and was only just failed to connect with a low Agbonlahor cross as Villa ended the opening 45 minutes in the ascendancy.
Hughes would have hoped for a positive response from his players after a below-par opening 45 minutes but it was Villa who again dominated proceedings.
Agbonlahor was a constant threat down the right wing and a deep cross was headed back across goal by the hard-working Angel but just behind Sutton.
But Villa were not to be denied and after 51 minutes leading scorer Angel doubled their lead with his sixth goal of the campaign.
Khizanishvili attempted to exchange passes with Gray but Angel intercepted and steadied himself before drilling a low shot across Friedel into the far corner of the net.
Angel could have struck again when racing onto good ball from Agbonlahor but Friedel was able to smother his effort just inside the box.
Sutton was yellow carded for a rash challenge on Bentley before Hughes opted for a double change just after the hour mark, replacing McCarthy and Tugay with Francis Jeffers and Sergio Peter.
Jeffers could have made an instant impact after he peeled away from Martin Laursen to collect Morten Pedersen’s long pass but his first touch let him down and the ball trickled out for a goal-kick.
But it was still mainly one-way traffic towards the Rovers goal and Angel was disappointed not to pick out the run of Agbonlahor after he had timed his run to beat the offside trap.