Benteke treble sparks Villa victory.
A second-half Christian Benteke hat-trick sealed victory for Aston Villa as 10-man Sunderland suffered their first defeat in three games.
Danny Rose scored his first goal for Sunderland to cancel out Ron Vlaar’s early strike, however, Villa proved a force to be reckoned with as Sunderland struggled to cope with Paul Lambert’s side.
Andreas Weimann gave the home side the lead at the break, before Benteke’s treble secured a resounding win for Villa, as well as a vital three points.
Gabriel Agbonlahor rounded off the evening with a late sixth goal for Paul Lambert's side.
More misery was heaped on the visitors during a forgettable night in the Midlands after Stephane Sessegnon was shown a straight red card 20 minutes from time for a challenge on Yacouba Sylla.
Sunderland made two changes to the side that defeated Everton on Wearside, with Craig Gardner returning to the line-up after serving a two-game ban and Phil Bardsley recovering from a leg injury.
Throughout the game both sets of fans were in fine voice, deafening at times - and to add to the stormy atmosphere, the heavens opened right on kick-off.
An early chance fell to the home side, but it was a brave challenge from Bardsley to stop Fabian Delph in his tracks, that seemed to set the tempo for the game, with end to end action from both sides during an entertaining first half.
Sunderland tested Villa’s resolve inside the first five minutes, with Sessegnon squeezing the ball into Danny Graham’s path, but it was keeper Brad Guzan who got to it first, before Gardner latched onto an inviting diagonal ball into the box, only to send it wide of the target.
The first half hour of the game saw Sunderland absorb a lot of pressure from Villa, as they frustrated the home side and countered what they could throw at them.
Former Villa man Carlos Cuellar denied Benteke on his first return to his old club, before Simon Mignolet saved his side’s blushes by catching a looping Agbonlahor effort.
It was Matthew Lowton who was next to try his luck, when he drove a low ball wide of the post; soon after Villa boss Lambert and the home fans thought their side had taken the lead after Agbonlahor powered forward to muster up a shot.
Fortunately for Sunderland the striker scuffed the effort and it blazed inches wide of Mignolet’s goal; this would be a warning for what would follow as Villa soon broke the deadlock following Agbonlahor’s missed chance.
Unable to sustain much more, the visitors’ defence caved in the 31st minute when Villa skipper Vlaar found an in-road.
The defender rifled home a right-footed effort from 30 yards out into the bottom corner of the Sunderland goal to almost lift the roof off Villa Park.
However, the response from Paolo Di Canio’s side was immediate. After springing a counter-attack Rose fired the ball into the back of the net with aplomb to pull the visitors level with his first goal in a red and white shirt.
The score line would not remain that way for long as Villa headed in to the break 2-1 up, after Weimann curled the ball past Mignolet in the 38th minute.
Sunderland did have the ball in the back of the net once again moments before half-time, however, Gardner’s strike was flagged offside before it crossed the line.
The second half picked up where the opening 45 minutes had left off. Within 10 minutes of the restart Villa doubled their lead.
Benteke headed home his 20th goal of the season after Mignolet parried Agbonlahor’s powerful shot. The Belgian palmed the deflected effort away but the marksman pounced to stab home the rebound.
Villa’s leading scorer added to his tally five minutes later. Benteke latched onto a left-wing corner, out-jumping Cuellar and O’Shea to grab the home side’s fourth of the night.
Sunderland’s uphill task was made all the more difficult on the 70th minute after Sessegnon was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Sylla.
The home side instantly capitalised on the dismissal when Benteke escaped the watch of the Sunderland back line to drill the ball into the bottom corner and secure his hat-trick.
Di Canio rang the changes, making all three substitutions with James McClean, Mikael Mandron and David Vaughan all being introduced.
None could make an impact in the few minutes they had on the pitch, other than Vaughan who saw his late pass intercepted by Agbonlahor, who went clean through on goal to make it 6-1 to the Villans on a night to forget for Sunderland fans at Villa Park.
The win sees Villa move to 16th in the league, one place below Sunderland with both teams on 37 points.
- Benteke (Bent)
- Bardsley Yellow
- Cuéllar Yellow
- Rose Yellow
- Sessegnon Red
- Larsson (McClean)
- Gardner (Vaughan)
- Graham (Mandron)