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Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Sunday, 26 October 2008

Wigan 0-4 Aston Villa

By Phil Dawkes

Agbonlahor celebrates
Agbonlahor grabbed his fifth goal of the season as Villa cruised to victory

Gabriel Agbonlahor scored one goal and made two as Villa won at a canter at Wigan's JJB Stadium.

Gareth Barry gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot after Agbonlahor was felled by Titus Bramble.

The young striker bundled home the second from a flick-on by substitute John Carew before returning the favour for the Norwegian to head the third.

Steve Sidwell capped Villa's afternoon by coming off the bench and rifling in a fourth goal, his first for the club.

The result and the manner in which it was achieved represents the perfect way for manager Martin O'Neill to complete his first century of games in charge of the Midlands side.

The Northern Irishman had warned beforehand of the dangers posed by Wigan but in truth the home side showed little of the fight on evidence in the recent home victory over Manchester City.

Villa started the more composed of the two sides and carved the first real opening when Barry's knock-down gave James Milner the chance to shoot from inside the box but he pulled his effort wide.


At the other end Emile Heskey was busy trying to impose himself on the visitors but with little end result.

He fired wide from a corner in the ninth minute, following an Amr Zaki nod-on, whilst a well-timed tackle on the rampaging England forward soon after diverted the ball into the path of Olivier Kapo but he blasted his shot high into the stand.

Wigan made 'schoolboy' errors - Bruce

Wigan were left to rue these misses shortly after when Villa took the lead.

Agbonlahor's forward run appeared to be taking him away from goal but Bramble's challenge on the edge of the box upended the striker and, despite the defender's protestations that he got the ball, a penalty was awarded.

Barry calmly stepped up to slot the ball in past Chris Kirkland's outstretched right hand.

Spurred on by a sense of injustice, Wigan almost replied immediately through a Paul Scharner header from a corner, but Brad Friedel stooped low to save with his legs before the ball was cleared with Heskey lurking.

An even better chance fell to the home side on the half hour. A Wilson Palacios shot proved too hot for Friedel to handle but when the ball rebounded to Kapo he could only acrobatically hook the ball over with the goal at his mercy.

O'Neill praises 'terrific' team

Striving for more creativity, Wigan replaced Kapo with Jason Koumas at half-time and it was the Welsh midfielder who had Wigan's first real effort of the second half, his 20-yard drive forcing Friedel into a neat save.

After 53 minutes Barry limped off to be replaced by Carew and the big striker's impact was immediate.

His first touch, a flick-on from an Ashley Young corner, fell to Agbonlahor who needed only to bundle the ball home from two yards for his first and Villa's second.

Shortly after, Agbonlahor returned the favour, crossing for Carew to easily head home from inside the six-yard box.

Despite the game being beyond them Wigan continued to push forward and probably should have scored from at least one of two clear-cut chances.

Bramble, looking to make amends for giving away the penalty, put a point-blank header straight at Friedel from a corner whilst Daniel De Ridder blasted an effort wide.

However, in committing men to attack through desperation they left themselves exposed at the back and the only surprise was that it took until the 89th minute for Villa to get a fourth goal.

Milner collected a long ball from Nicky Shorey before crossing low for substitute Sidwell to rifle in his first for the club and underline the away side's dominance.

Wigan boss Steve Bruce:
"We haven't done our jobs defensively.

"That has been our strength because in the games that we've lost we have lost by the odd goal.

"Three of the four that we conceded today were so poor defensively and the mistakes were not acceptable at this level.

"If you do that against a really good Aston Villa side then you have your backsides kicked and we certainly had that today."

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill:
"It was a great performance and a result I had not expected.

"With us having played on Thursday night, it was a concern, but there were some terrific performances all told.

"I was worries about today's game so for us to win today in the manner that we did was great.

"We have competition for places which is something that two years ago at Villa we didn't have so that's encouraging."

Wigan: Kirkland, Boyce, Bramble, Scharner, Figueroa, De Ridder (Taylor 81), Palacios, Cattermole (Brown 81), Kapo (Koumas 46), Zaki, Heskey. Subs Not Used: Pollitt, Kilbane, Camara, Cywka.

Booked: Palacios.

Aston Villa: Friedel, Luke Young (Davies 78), Laursen, Cuellar, Shorey, Reo-Coker, Petrov (Sidwell 84), Barry (Carew 54), Ashley Young, Agbonlahor, Milner. Subs Not Used: Guzan, Harewood, Knight, Gardner.

Booked: Luke Young, Reo-Coker.

Goals: Barry 22 pen, Agbonlahor 57, Carew 62, Sidwell 90.

Att: 20,249.

Ref: Michael Jones (Cheshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor 8.28 (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.

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see also
Sunday's football photos
26 Oct 08 |  Football
Premier League as it happened
26 Oct 08 |  Premier League

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