Christian Benteke sinks QPR to boost Aston Villa survival bid
Aston Villa eased their relegation worries as Christian Benteke’s late strike clinched a crucial 3-2 win over fellow strugglers QPR on Saturday.
Paul Lambert’s team moved six points clear of the Premier League’s bottom three thanks to Benteke’s winner nine minutes from the end of a thrilling encounter at Villa Park.
QPR had taken a first half lead through Jermaine Jenas, only for Gabriel Agbonlahor to equalise against the run of play just before the break.
Andreas Weimann put Villa ahead early in the second half before Andros Townsend hauled QPR level to set up a dramatic finale capped by Belgian striker Benteke’s seventh goal in the last eight league games — his 17th since his ?8 million move from Genk last year.
While Villa can look to the final weeks of the season more optimistically after this win, QPR remain bottom of the table and are now seven points from safety.
To make matters worse for Harry Redknapp’s team, they should have been out of sight before half-time after a dominant opening.
Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan made two excellent saves in the space of 60 seconds to keep his side on level terms.
The United States international backpedalled to turn a looping header from Christopher Samba over the bar after he had connected with a Jose Bosingwa free-kick.
Then Guzan made an even better save to turn aside another effort from Samba, this time from just inside the box.
But Guzan was beaten when Villa substitute Joe Bennett played a careless pass just inside his own half which was seized on by Jenas who released Bobby Zamora in space.
Zamora’s low drive was parried by Guzan but Jenas continued his run into the box and was first to the loose ball to make no mistake from close range.
Villa narrowly avoided falling 2-0 down when Bosingwa’s powerful free-kick struck a post.
But in first half stoppage-time Villa forward Agbonlahor scored a vital equaliser, timing his run to the far post and heading home Matt Lowton’s cross.
The momentum swung Villa’s way after that Bennett atoned for his earlier costly error by setting up Weimann for his 11th goal of the season in the 59th minute.
Bennett showed good control before supplying the pass to Weimann who cut inside before drilling a low left-footed shot past Julio Cesar.
With 17 minutes left, on-loan Tottenham winger Townsend levelled for QPR when his deflected shot flew past Guzan.
There was no sign of Villa’s young team buckling under the pressure and after 81 minutes Weimann drove over a low cross which was turned in by Benteke to spark wild celebrations from the home players and fans.