LONDON – Christian Bentekeâ€™s stoppage-time penalty earned Aston Villa a dramatic first victory under new manager Tim Sherwood as the battle for Premier League safety went up a gear on Tuesday evening.
Four teams scrapping at the bottom of the table were in action, with Villaâ€™s 2-1 West Midlands derby win over West Brom ending a torrid run of 12 games without victory and lifting them out of the relegation zone.
The Baggies have been in brilliant form in recent weeks, having lost just one of their previous eight fixtures, but Tony Pulisâ€™ men were completely outplayed in the first half at a bouncing Villa Park.
Sherwood was an animated as ever on the touchline and the former Spurs coach was pulling his hair out in the first half when his side were denied the opening goal by goal-line technology.
Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster let a rasping hit from Gabriel Agbonlahor slip from his grasp but the England shot-stopper managed to claw the ball back off the line and the referee â€“ with a glance at his watch â€“ confirmed it had not completely crossed.
The Villans captain wasnâ€™t to be denied for a second time, however, as he put the hosts deservedly in front on 22 minutes with a neat finish, slotting the ball between Fosterâ€™s legs after route-one play from Benteke, who flicked on Brad Guzanâ€™s goal-kick.
Agbonlahor then went close to a second as he had another effort cleared off the line, and the hosts’ near misses almost came back to haunt them in the second half as Albion battled back, with Saido Berahino equalising thanks to a close-range header after Villa failed to clear from a corner.
The clash looked certain to end with the points shared until a moment of madness from Foster saw the Villans awarded a late penalty â€“ the keeper bringing down Matthew Lowton while lunging for the ball â€“ and Benteke kept his cool to roll the spot-kick into the corner, sparking pandemonium at Villa Park.
Meanwhile, Hull and Sunderland remain locked just above the relegation places as the struggling sides battled to a 1-1 draw at the KC Stadium.
The hosts took the lead through a wonderful first half goal from deadline day signing Dame N’Doye, who backheeled Tom Huddlestoneâ€™s free-kick into the back of the net.
Sunderland offered little in the first-half and the frustrations of head coach Gus Poyet eventually saw him sent to the stands, with the Uruguayan sparking a mild scuffle with opposing boss Steve Bruce on his way from the dugout.
Poyet had something to celebrate after the break, however, as Jack Rodwell pulled the Black Cats level to earn what could be a vital point, the former Manchester City man making sure with a header on the line after Patrick Van Aanholtâ€™s cross beat goalkeeper Allan McGregor and looked to be floating in.
Elsewhere, Southampton barged Liverpool out of the top-five with a 1-0 triumph over Crystal Palace â€“ their first win in four league games.
It appeared it wasnâ€™t the Saintsâ€™ day as the likes of Eljero Elia, Filip Djuricic, Victor Wanyama and Maya Yoshida all failed to convert decent chances in front of goal.
Palace had their opportunities too, with Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie seeing shots saved by Fraser Forster, while Wilfried Zahaâ€™s low zipped effort came back off the post.
But, just as it seemed neither side were destined not to find the net, Southampton finally got the breakthrough in the 83rd minute.
Sadio Mane, perhaps the liveliest player on the pitch, was there to win it for the hosts on the rebound after goalkeeper Julian Speroni could only parry out James Ward-Prowseâ€™s initial effort. – talkSPORT
Premier League results:
Aston Villa 2-1 West Brom
Hull 1-1 Sunderland
Southampton 1-0 Crystal Palace