Aston Villa 5 Bolton Wanderers 1
There will be bigger Premier League wins than this, but it's difficult to imagine goals coming so gift-wrapped. In cruising to the victory that eluded them on Wednesday, Aston Villa found opponents as accommodating as can be in a Bolton side now beaten by four goals in each of their past three games.
Penetrating and slick though Villa were, Bolton's aberrations were almost off the scale. Gary Cahill, touted as an England player in the making, was most culpable and blundered for at least two of the five, though he was not alone in sampling Gary Megson's wrath.
The manager had put his players through extra defensive work in training following their concession of 10 goals in four League matches, and said of the continuing benevolence: "It wasn't acceptable or good enough, and if we can't address it with what we have, we will need to change it."
Bolton fielded two former Villa defenders in Cahill and Zat Knight, but Martin O'Neill's decision to hand the armband to Nigel Reo-Coker in the absence of the suspended Stiliyan Petrov, made this a day of repatriation as well as reunions. The midfielder had not started a League game since the well-publicised spat he had with his manager in mid-September.
Considerably less surprising, on recent evidence, was the fact that Bolton should start to buckle almost from the moment they were first tested. John Carew, although shadowed by two defenders, was allowed to guide a downwards header from a right-wing, fifth-minute cross by James Milner. Jussi Jaaskelainen saved well to his left but, much to Megson's annoy-ance, Ashley Young anticipated a loose ball that Knight didn't and sidefooted high into the net from an angle.
Jaaskelainen had already displayed sharp reactions to deny Carlos Cuellar and must have sensed things would become worse. They did. The only top-flight side without a League clean sheet cracked again when Cahill accidentally kept the ball in when trying to usher it over the byline and Carew pulled back for Gabriel Agbonlahor to squeeze home a left-foot shot. Johan Elmander's tap-in after Cahill's ricochet off Richard Dunne had struck the post provided Bolton with hope that was exposed as false the other side of the interval when the outstanding Carew capitalised on flawed defending to rifle in the third.
Villa could even afford their now almost customary penalty miss, Milner's tame kick being easily saved following Kevin Davies's shove on Carew before Steve Sidwell hit the post from the first rebound and Milner the net from the second.
Almost immediately, Cuellar glanced his first Villa goal from one of many crosses by Ashley Young, whose free-kick was then spectacularly palmed away by an overworked keeper.
"We have been threatening a goal performance like that for some time," O'Neill said. "It was very pleasing."
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Carew