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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 November 2007, 19:24 GMT
Middlesbrough 0-3 Aston Villa
By Rob Watson

John Carew
Carew scores the first of Villa's three goals at the Riverside

Aston Villa increased the pressure on Boro boss Gareth Southgate with a comfortable 3-0 win at the Riverside.

John Carew gave them the lead in first-half stoppage time with a turn and shot past keeper Mark Schwarzer.

They increased their advantage shortly after the restart when Olof Mellberg made the most of a terrible error from midfielder Lee Cattermole.

And the points were safe within the hour through Gabriel Agbonlahor to leave Boro in deep trouble.

Middlesbrough have not won a single league game since September 1, a run of nine fixtures which has yielded only three points. And on this evidence, it was easy to see why.

Their first half chances were few and far between, and it got even worse in the second half when they conceded two goals and didn't come close to responding.

The match was watched by Boro's lowest attendance of the season - 23,900 - but that didn't bother Villa who arrived having won on four of their last five visits at the Riverside.

Following his midweek howler for England, Villa goalkeeper Scott Carson was the centre of attention.

He took to the field looking pensive and confirmed signs of nerves early on as his first kick was a sliced clearance. Even his first save after six minutes hardly had the ring of confidence.

A shot from Stewart Downing squirmed under his body but he managed to get just enough on the ball as it flew wide of his far post.

But he spent the rest of the afternoon in relative comfort.

Villa began to dominate towards the end of the first half and it was no real surprise when John Carew gave them the lead deep into first-half stoppage time.

Carew controlled a Gareth Barry cross on his knee inside the Boro penalty area. And in one movement he turned David Wheater to fire a low shot past the outstretched right-hand of Mark Schwarzer.

Villa carried on their good work early in the second period and made it 2-0 just three minutes in, thanks largely to a mistake from Cattermole.

His attempted clearance spooned back into his own penalty area and straight to Mellberg, who comfortably scored his first goal of the season.

Thirteen minutes later, it was all over with a goal made by Scott Carson.

His huge goal-kick bounced three times before Agbonlahor muscled past the Boro defence to fire to past a helpless Schwarzer.

Boro largely disappeared for the rest of the game and only came close to a consolation when Downing's effort was well saved by Carson.

In fact, the score could have been a lot more embarrassing for Boro as Agbonlahor, whose pace had caused problems all afternoon, broke free once more only to see his shot rebound off the post.

Villa fully deserved their third straight win for the first time under Martin O'Neill. But Middlesbrough's troubles continue.

It promises to be a long, hard winter for Southgate and his team.

  • Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
    "I thought we were second best in the first half and obviously our goal was a big, big moment because it sent Boro in at half-time feeling pretty deflated.

    "But I think we have a bit of resilience about our side. We had to hang on in there today.

    "When we opened up we've got the ability to play. But we showed today that we have got to improve."

  • Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate:
    "I am somebody who likes to defend the players publicly, but on afternoons like today it is difficult to do that.

    "Somehow we have managed to stay out of the bottom three so we are very, very lucky that that has happened.

    "I'm the manager and I'm a fighter. But they've got to fight and scrap now because it's a collective that gets us out of it. It's going to be tough."

    Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Young, Woodgate, Wheater, Pogatetz, O'Neil, Cattermole (Rochemback 53), Boateng, Johnson, Aliadiere (Hutchinson 75), Downing.
    Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Sanli, Taylor.

    Booked: Cattermole, Downing.

    Aston Villa: Carson, Mellberg, Knight, Laursen (Davies 84), Bouma, Petrov (Gardner 79), Reo-Coker, Barry, Young, Carew (Maloney 74), Agbonlahor.
    Subs Not Used: Taylor, Moore.

    Booked: Reo-Coker.

    Goals: Carew 45, Mellberg 48, Agbonlahor 58.

    Att: 23,900

    Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).

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