Valencia fires Latics to safety
Villa's Euro hopes hit hard by home defeat
Last Updated: 03/05/08 6:15pm
Valencia: Wigan's two-goal hero
Wigan secured their Premier League safety with an impressive 2-0 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Antonio Valencia was the hero for Steve Bruce's side with two second half goals to ensure another season in the top flight for the Latics.
After a dour first half Valencia broke the deadlock on 52 minutes when he saw his shot deflect off Wilfred Bouma and loft over the stranded Scott Carson.
The Ecuador international, who has been linked with a move away from Wigan, enhanced his reputation with the second goal on 63 minutes when he latched onto Emile Heskey's flick-on and flashed a superb shot with the outside of his foot past Carson at his near post.
Villa struggled to create too many clear goal-scoring opportunities with Wigan's defence keeping their attack at bay.
The result dents Villa's hopes of finishing in fifth spot and claiming a place in next season's Uefa Cup spot, but Wigan can look forward to another season in the Premier League next term.
The hosts nearly had a stroke of fortune in the third minute when an attempted Wigan clearance ricocheted wickedly and played in Ashley Young.
But Paul Scharner was alert enough to put in a vital tackle and send the ballback to a grateful Chris Kirkland.
The unlikely figure of Zat Knight had a good chance when he met Young's curling free-kick at the far post, but he could not hit the target.
Villa were pressing but could not find the end result, with Agbonlahor guilty of scuffing his left-footed shot minutes later.
A set-piece nearly provided the breakthrough. After 33 minutes, Jason Koumas whipped in the game's first corner, and after Bouma failed to clear, Bent fired wide from close-range.
Bent, off-balance when the chance fell his way, did not get a full connection on his shot but it was a timely warning against complacency.
A drilled 30-yard effort from the same player five minutes later merely underlined the point.
WoodworkVilla were stung into action and Agbonlahor saw his close-range header tipped onto the crossbar by Kirkland in the aftermath of another messy corner.
After a scrappy start to the second period, Barry sought to reassert himself on the game.
He first played in the lively Agbonlahor with a perfectly-weighted pass down the right before taking the return pass and forcing Kirkland to palm the ball over the crossbar when his lofted cross sailed dangerously towards the top corner.
But it was the away side, against the odds, who took the lead.
Having received a smart pass from Koumas and with the angle tight, Valencia took what looked to be an ambitious punt at goal. His shot ballooned off the foot of the onrushing Bouma and flew agonisingly over the stretching Carson.
The momentum stayed with Steve Bruce's side, and when Heskey's neat header released Valencia, it was soon 2-0.
ClincherTwo good touches took the Ecuador international clear of Nigel Reo-Coker - shuffled into an unfamiliar right-back slot to accommodate the introduction of Patrik Berger - and he beat Carson with a fierce shot at his near post.
Agbonlahor went close again, once more with a header, but Valencia will be disappointed not to have claimed his third after 70 minutes as the home defence crumbled.
|Aston Villa||Team Statistics||Wigan Athletic|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|9||Shots off Target||4|
Barclays Premier League
|10||West Ham United||32||43|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||33||36|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||33||26|