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Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Saturday, 3 May 2008 17:02 UK

Aston Villa 0-2 Wigan

By Oliver Brett

Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios celebrate Wigan's first goal
Antonio Valencia and Wilson Palacios celebrate for Wigan

Ecuador star Antonio Valencia scored two second-half goals to seal Wigan's Premier League place for next season with a surprise win at Aston Villa.

Valencia, with just one goal in 29 previous matches for the Latics, was fortunate to see his shot deflect off Wilfried Bouma for the first goal.

But the second was a fine right-footed shot, as he surged into the box to beat Scott Carson at the near post.

Villa had plenty of chances, but Chris Kirkland pulled off some fine saves.

And Wigan's second away win of the season puts a massive dent in Villa's hopes of claiming the fifth Premier League spot that would guarantee Uefa Cup qualification.

As much as Valencia will take his share of the headlines, it was Kirkland who arguably put in the outstanding performance of the match.

Bruce delighted with Wigan's win

In the first half, he dived to his left to pounce on a Zat Knight header and pushed a Gabriel Agbonlahor header on to the bar.

Agbonlahor suffered a frustrating afternoon and was again denied deep into the second half when Kirkland dived high and to his left to punch a header away from the corner of his goal. By then, Villa boss Martin O'Neill had used his first substitute Patrik Berger and the Kirkland save prompted him to throw Marlon Harewood on as well as he opted for a 3-4-3 formation.

But although dominating for long periods of the game, it simply was not to be Villa's afternoon.


Wigan started the match brightly, but Swedish international Olof Mellberg, playing his final match at Villa Park before his move to Juventus in the summer, made some important tackles and the hosts soon settled.

The first chance for Villa came just after that awkward first 20 minutes when Knight's header from an Ashley Young free-kick forced Kirkland into the first of his collection of fine saves.

That chance finally roused Villa out of their slumber and the home team's midfielders, marshalled by Gareth Barry and Nigel Reo-Coker, helped provide further chances.

Kirkland, now wearing a baseball cap with the sun directly in his line of sight, produced another good save to deny Barry, before Agbonlahor wasted a chance by dragging his shot left.

Villa started stronger in the second half, but the goal came against the run of play when Valencia's speculative shot from outside the area was cruelly deflected by Bouma.

'We were really disappointing' - O'Neill

Carson was hopelessly wrong-footed and suddenly Villa were chasing the game.

But they were simply not making the most of their chances. Barry shot wide soon after the hour mark before disaster struck for the home team.

Kirkland's clearance upfield was headed on by Emile Heskey.

Valencia surged between defenders and stabbed a powerful shot with his right foot.

Though well-positioned, Carson had little chance to stop his shot.

As Kirkland continued his fine performance in the Wigan goal, John Carew missed one of Villa's best chances of the match when heading wide from an unmarked position on the edge of the six-yard box.

Many Villa's fans took that miss as their cue to head for the exits.

Wigan manager Steve Bruce:
"It's as good as I've ever done in management, in terms of where we were going into the Blackburn game in mid-December with nine points.

"To get 31 points since the turn of the year is fantastic for the players.

"I'm delighted we've managed to do it and do it in some style against Villa who have been playing well.

"I'm sure the fans are delighted seeing a little town like Wigan year after year staying in the Premier League."

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill:
"It would be hard to explain why we were so flat for so long.

"We had been coming into the game with loads of confidence and playing brilliantly of late.

"I can understand the first 15 or 20 minutes being a bit tentative. After that I thought we would settle down and get into a bit of fluency but it never materialised.

"The goals put us on the back foot and the second really deflated us.

"We had this opportunity to put pressure on Everton (for the Uefa Cup spot). The crowds have been fantastic and have been used to better fare than that."

Aston Villa: Carson, Mellberg, Laursen, Knight (Berger 60), Bouma (Harewood 69), Young, Petrov, Reo-Coker, Barry, Carew, Agbonlahor.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Salifou, Routledge.

Wigan: Kirkland, Boyce, Bramble, Scharner, Kilbane, Valencia, Brown, Palacios (Skoko 90), Koumas, Heskey (Sibierski 89), Bent (King 77).
Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Taylor.

Booked: Brown.

Goals: Valencia 52, 63.

Att: 42,640

Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Aston Villa's Martin Laursen 6.92 (on 90 minutes)

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Live - Premier League
03 May 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
03 May 08 |  Football
How to watch Match of the Day
08 Oct 07 |  Match of the Day

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