Aston Villa and Blackburn both gained important Premier League wins in England to advance their hopes of European adventures next season.
|Marlon Harewood seals the points for Aston Villa |
Aston Villa were 2-1 winners over Reading while Blackburn thumped Bolton 4-1.
Villa wasted a 33rd-minute penalty at the Madejski Stadium when Gareth Barry completely missed the target after the ball struck Kalifa Cisse on the arm just inside the Reading area.
But Villa always looked dangerous on the break and Cisse's mistimed tackle allowed Gabriel Agbonlahor to break down the right.
The striker pulled the ball back to the unmarked Ashley Young, who drove it confidently into the roof of the net from 10 metres.
Villa goalkeeper Scott Carson blocked a shot from Nicky Shorey and Reading striker Dave Kitson missed a close range header before the visitors scored again in the 83rd minute.
Marlon Harewood collected the ball in his own half on a breakaway, fed Young and then took the return pass to lob a curling shot over Royals goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
After Carson had made another blocking save from Kitson, Reading finally hit the target when Shorey's free kick went in off the post.
Although Villa stayed in sixth place in the Premier League standings, the team moved level on points with fourth-place Liverpool and fifth-place Everton.
The top four finishers enter the Champions League next season, although that will be cut to three in 2009.
The loss meant Reading stayed in the relegation zone in 18th place.
Its goal in the third minute of injury time was its first in more than nine hours of football.
McCarthy double boosts Blackburn
Meanwhile, Benni McCarthy gave Blackburn the lead in the 23rd minute from the penalty spot after Gretar Steinsson was ruled to have tripped Dunn.
McCarthy fired a low spot kick past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Kevin Davies equalized in the 50th minute when Matthew Taylor's long free kick found him only six meters from goal.
McCarthy restored the lead in the 67th minute with a second penalty after Gary Cahill fouled David Dunn.
Dunn created the third with a cross for David Bentley to head home in the 71st.
Morten Gamst Pedersen added a fourth in injury time from Jason Roberts' cross.