Villa take deserved victory
Aston Villa recovered from a calamitous Nathan Baker own goal to haul themselves out of the relegation places with a 2-1 victory at fellow strugglers Reading.
The Royals were gifted the lead on the half-hour when Baker made a complete hash of a routine clearance but on a day when neither defence was convincing it was not decisive.
Instead, Villa were level two minutes later when Christian Benteke fired in before Gabby Agbonlahor grabbed the winner in first-half injury time. Both goals appeared preventable, especially Agbonlahor's strike, after a goalmouth melee that saw third-choice goalkeeper Stuart Taylor scoop the ball to the winger after Barry Bannan's deft touch hit the post.
Victory was just Villa's second in their past 12 league games and moved them three points clear of danger. Reading's defeat - their second in succession at home against a relegation rival after they lost 3-0 to Wigan a fortnight ago - left them above last-placed QPR on goals scored only.
Adam Le Fondre forced Brad Guzan to claw a header away after he peeled off his marker at the back post before delivering a cross that an unmarked Hal Robson-Kanu mis-controlled. But for all Reading's early promise they almost fell behind on 12 minutes when Benteke rattled the crossbar with a header.
Reading's opener on 31 minutes will be consigned to the blooper reel as Baker was left red-faced by his bumbling generosity. There appeared little danger, but defending close to his line Baker horribly rushed his clearance. It meant he completely missed the ball and watched on as it bounced off his standing leg and over the line.
Reading's lead lasted barely two minutes though. Andreas Weimann was given acres of space down the right but instead of marking Benteke the home defenders rushed to the goal-line. The Belgian astutely sat back for the pass and lashed in a shot that took a deflection off Stephen Kelly to ensure Taylor was beaten.
It got worse for the Royals, however, as they conceded in first-half injury time for the second successive game at home. Again the goal looked preventable as first Kelly failed to properly clear. Matthew Lowton headed the ball across the box and while Bannan's deft touch rebounded off the post Taylor could only help the loose ball to Agbonlahor to thump home.
Reading thought they were level 10 minutes after the re-start only for a marginal offside call to go against them. Noel Hunt poked home at close range but if he was not offside Le Fondre, who was just in front of him, appeared to have just strayed.
Substitute Nick Blackman fired wide and then headed over. And Reading kept pushing, with six of their past seven league goals having come after the 84th minute, but there was no late rally on this occasion as Robson-Kanu wasted the best of their late chances.