Belfast Telegraph

McLeish savours Rovers victory

Alex McLeish was able to savour the applause of the Aston Villa faithful at the end of a convincing first home victory as manager as his side recorded a 3-1 win over Blackburn.

Goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey put Villa two goals up at half-time and, although Morten Gamst Pedersen's fine header pulled one back seven minutes after the break, Darren Bent restored the two-goal cushion in the 67th minute.

For opposite number in Blackburn's Steve Kean, it has been an eight days to the start of the season to forget as his side suffered back-to-back losses.

The vitriol that had greeted former Birmingham boss McLeish's appointment two months ago was a thing of the past, with the home fans giving the Scot a warm reception before kick-off.

They were cheering the opening goal after 12 minutes as Agbonlahor cut his way into the area before delivering a stunning curled strike from 15 yards beyond Paul Robinson's flailing grasp into the top-left corner.

Agbonlahor almost doubled his and Villa's tally with an audacious 30-yard effort midway through the half, but Robinson clawed the ball out of the air.

The former England goalkeeper, though, was beaten again soon after, with Agbonlahor the supplier for Heskey in the 25th minute. From inside the D, Heskey's edge-of-the-area shot made its way beyond Robinson, ending the striker's 13-game drought.

Heskey should have made it 3-0 in the 34th minute, but his poor first touch allowed returning captain Ryan Nelsen to clear.

After a virtual no-show in the first half, the goal that gave them a lifeline in the 52nd minute was a bolt from the blue. Pedersen planted a powerful header past home debut goalkeeper Shay Given after neat work down the left wing by Junior Hoilett.

But Villa soon restored their two-goal lead. After young defender Grant Hanley had blocked a speculative shot from Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov, Bent was quick to seize on the loose ball before delivering a clinical finish beyond Robinson.


From Belfast Telegraph