Aston Villa 3 Blackburn Rovers 2
Gareth Barry scored for the second time in four days to help maintain Aston Villa’s unbeaten home record this season in the Premier League and cement their place in the top four.
The England midfielder’s 64th-minute goal capped a debut strike in claret and blue from full back Luke Young and another late great Gabriel Agbonlahor goal to cancel out a 31st-minute shot from Blackburn defender Stephen Warnock.
The 3-2 victory – Villa’s third win in succession – marked a major milestone for Villa who have now amassed an all-time league points total of 5,000.
Martin O’Neill had chosen to go in with the team that started so brightly against Wigan in Sunday’s 4-0 victory with the team unchanged Villa side except this time John Carew was on the bench for tactical reasons rather than disciplinary ones.
Villa pressed early on with Barry pressing forward and James Milner also eager to get off the mark. Agbonlahor chipped a ball across the area for Ashley Young who headed it down to Barry but the Blackburn defence just managed to stifle the danger.
Rovers’ first real effort came on 12 minutes when Warnock’s long-range effort was superbly blocked by Carlos Cuellar who is continuing to keep Curtis Davies out of the side.
Seconds later Villa No 1 Brad Friedel made a fine diving save from a long-range effort from Keith Andrews while Carlos Villanueva fired a 30-yarder just past Friedel’s upright.
Milner and Agbonlahor then worked a nice one-two to try to thread through Barry only to be denied by Blackburn skipper Ryan Nelsen
Blackburn, however, had not read the script and were 1-0 up on 31 minutes after nice build-up play which twice saw McCarthy hold the ball up well to put through defender Warnock.
Martin Laursen, Luke Young and Barry were all required to help clear another Andrews effort on 34 minutes. At the other end Laursen forced a diving save from Paul Robinson after he got his head on the end of an Ashley Young free kick.
Cuellar put through Milner with a perfect ball only for a defender to put it out for a corner, Laursen then found the ball with a climbing header but was unable to bring it down on target.
Luke Young, though, finally levelled on the stroke of half time. A Nicky Shorey cross found Agbonlahor who flicked it on for Young to knock in at the second time of asking.
Carew came on for Stiliyan Petrov after half time and at once started making mischief against the Rovers defence, flicking on a header for Agbonlahor which went a whisker wide before, at the other end, Brett Emerton fired just past Friedel’s post with a right-footed effort.
Both teams were having to contend with swirling snow but it was Villa who coped best with Ashley Young’s long punt, finding Milner who twisted and turned his way through the Rovers’ defence to set up Barry for his goal.
Ashley Young set up Agbonlahor to make sure of a victory with three minutes remaining before Emerton reduced the arrears for Rovers with a well struck free kick in injury time.
Scorers: Warnock (31) 0-1; L Young (45) 1-1; Barry (64) 2-1; Agbonlahor (89) 3-1; Emerton (90) 3-2.
ASTON Villa: (4-5-1) Freidel, L Young, Cuellar, Laursen, Shorey, Milner, Reo-Coker (Sidwell, 83) Petrov (Carew, 45) Barry, A Young, Agbonlahor (Harewood, 88). Subs: Guzan, Davies, Knight, Gardner.
Blackburn: (4-5-1) Robinson, Simpson, Samba, Nelsen, Warnock (Tugay, 68) Pedersen (Olsson, 78) Andrews, Villaneuva, Emerton Ooijer, McCarthy (Derbyshire, 78) Subs: Brown, McCarthy, Fowler, Roberts.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).
Bookings: Blackburn – Samba (foul).