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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:18 1st March 2013

Report: Villa edge it

Reading 1 (Baker OG 32)
Aston Villa 2 (Benteke 33, Agbonlahor 45)

Aston Villa snatched all three points at Madejski Stadium thanks to two crucial first half goals.

The Royals were ahead after an energetic start to the game when Hope Akpan's flick was converted in by Villa's Nathan Baker, but Christian Benteke struck for the visitors a minute later.

Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor smashed home a scrappy rebound on the stroke of half time, which proved to be the pivotal moment in the match.

In a dominant second half from the Royals, Noel Hunt had a goal ruled out for offside - though the striker appeared to be level, but there was no getting past Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan as the visitors held on for the points.

Royals: Taylor, Kelly, Harte, Pearce, Mariappa, Leigertwood (Guthrie 81), Akpan (McCleary 55), Robson-Kanu, McAnuff (C), Le Fondre, Hunt (Blackman 55)

Subs not used: Henly, Gunter, Morrison, Karacan, Guthrie.

Booked: Hunt, McAnuff

Villa: Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar (C), Clark, Baker (Bennett 80), Westwood, Bannan (N'Zogbia 71), Sylla, Agbonlahor, Weimann, Benteke. 

Subs not used: Given, Holman, Dawkins, Carruthers, Bowery.

Booked: Benteke, Westwood

Att: 24, 102

Jobi McAnuff lead the Royals out to a vibrant Madejski Stadium with Hal Robson-Kanu among the players behind him - coming in for the injured Jimmy Kebe - as the Royals and the Villa took to the pitch for the Barclays Premier League match.

And with less than three minutes on the clock, Adam Le Fondre so very nearly made the stadium erupt. Robson-Kanu delivered an excellent ball from the right to the striker, who managed to get a strong head to it but Brad Guzan's fingertips denied an early opener. Moments later the two combined again, but Hal was unable to sort his feet out as Villa desperately cleared for a corner.

It really was a lively start - the Royals had a decent shout for a penalty when Noel Hunt was bundled over as Brad Guzan claimed the ball in the air, moments before Villa striker Christian Benteke rose above everyone and headed onto the Stuart Taylor's bar.

With 20 minutes gone, Stephen Kelly won a crucial challenge in the middle of the pitch as Villa were about to break. The right back fed Robson-Kanu, who raced forward, cut inside and let fire - but his effort rolled just wide with Guzan well beaten.

Then it was our turn to be thankfully for the ball missing the target. From a long ball over the top, Benteke found himself with just Adrian Mariappa to beat - then found Andreas Weimann in support down the left, but the Austrian scuffed. 

The game had the feel of a basketball game - as the Royals were next to mount a serious attack, which this time reaped its rewards.

McAnuff, dancing past his marker on the right, hooked into the box for Akpan - who produced a skillful flick towards goal, and defender Nathan Baker got the final touches as he erroneously cleared into his own net to put the Royals ahead and propel 24,000 fans to their feet. 

But just a minute later, the Villains levelled. Weimann broke down the right, crossed inside for Benteke - whose shot took a wicked deflection off Kelly and bounced into the net - fooling the helpless Taylor. 

After both sides settled down towards half time after a madcap couple of minutes, Villa struck a killer blow right on half time. With the ball floating dangerous around the Royals box, Weimann instinctively poked a knockdown towards goal - Taylor parried it away after it smacked the bar - but Gabriel Agbonlahor smashed the rebound into the top corner.

Half time

Villa maintained their momentum after the interval - and the Royals had Alex Pearce to thank as the defender produced an outstanding tackle on the goalbound Weimann before a deflection ensured Benteke's long range strike flew over the bar.

But Reading responded as they typically do - but were ruing yet another decision by the officials. McAnuff again created the chance down the left, fizzing in and finding the feet of Noel Hunt who tapped in from close range - but had the goal controversially ruled out by the assistant referee for offside.

Nick Blackman and Garath McCleary were introduced before the hour mark - and minutes later the latter had an effort on goal as he received Ian Harte's throw and cleverly twisted towards goal but struck wide.

Robson-Kanu came even closer to restoring parity when he latched on to a loose ball but agonisingly fired wide - before Blackman so nearly grabbed the equaliser, but Guzan was equal to his header.

The Royals flooded forward but inevitably left themselves exposed on the odd occasion - Benteke and substitute Charles N'Zogbia broke for Villa but the eventual effort flew over the bar.

But we were close once again moments later. McAnuff burst forward and passed inside, with Robson-Kanu the recipient who curled home what looked to be an emphatic equaliser - but it was inches wide.

Another shout for a penalty, this time when Blackman was tripped in the box, was waived away as the Royals pushed for an equaliser. But Villa were resolute, and stood firm to hold on for all three points.