Aston Villa came into today's match badly needing a win against Reading after three very tough matches against both Manchester sides and Arsenal. Through the first 80 minutes, though, Villa did not play like a team that was planning on winning. However, an 80th minute goal by Christian Benteke (from a corner!) was enough to see Villa through to getting all three points and moving out of the relegation zone.
The match began with a lovely bit of controversy, as Darren Bent was once again left entirely off of the teamsheet for the day. Rumors swirled that Bent had left Villa Park in a huff (and, if he had, who could have blamed him), but just before the match, the Sky TV cameras showed the record signing sitting in a box at the grounds. Nevertheless, it will continue to be interesting to see what happens with Bent.
Once the match actually started, Villa were clearly still tired from Saturday's frenetic outing. Neither team looked willing to take the reins, though Villa had moments of attacking clarity. The big problem came as a result of sloppy passing in the attack and some appalling defending. Oddly, the worst culprit of poor defending was Barry Bannan, who had one of his worst matches in a Villa kit. Of course, we can ask what the wee Scotsman was doing back in the defense, but when he did end up there he made terrible decisions, nearly costing Villa dearly on several occassions. It didn't help that
Enda Stevens had to come off in the 24th minute after snagging an injury. He was replaced by Eric Lichaj, who didn't actually look too badly today. Nevertheless, let's all hope that Stevens isn't the second Villa defender to take himself out of lineup consideration due to injury in a week.
The second half was more of the same. Andi Weimann, who had been so solid lately, was himself having a terrible match and was subbed off for Marc Albrighton. Brett Holman didn't do terribly, but he was taken off for Stephen Ireland. Both of these came in the 68th minute, and neither play had a big impact on the match. Villa by this point were clearly the better team in terms of possession, but hadn't really done anything to deserve the three points.
In the 80th minute, however, the club did something that has been seen by some as a sign of the pending apocalypse: they scored from a corner. Christian Benteke ended a four-match scoring drought when he headed home Ashley Westwood's set piece. I could try and describe it, but how about we look at it instead:
And here's another angle so you can see Benteke's work more clearly:
Oddly, Villa had nearly scored on two previous corners, but it seems that the ball could only be persuaded to go into the net after it had assured that, yes, Aston Villa did want to score from a corner. I guess the form had to be filled out in triplicate before the ball would accept it.
Of course, Reading pressed in the final 13 minutes of play (3 of stoppage time) but Villa were able to hold on for their second-straight clean sheet. The win puts Villa in 17th and in a great position to take on 20th-place Queens Park Rangers this weekend.
Since we're all happy, I'll leave you with this gif that I encourage you to use for all goal celebrations ever: