Villans move into third
Aston Villa maintain their charge in the English Premier League with a 2-1 win.
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2009 06:51 GMT

Curtis Davis scores and keeps his side right in the race for a lucrative Champions League berth [GALLO/GETTY]
Aston Villa climbed into third place in the English Premier League with a 2-1 win over local rival West Bromwich Albion after a costly blunder by Baggies goalkeeper Scott Carson.

Carson deflected Gabriel Agbonlahor's off-target shot into his own goal just before the break after Curtis Davies put Villa ahead in the 19th minute.

Despite James Morrison's 49th minute goal for the last-place Baggies and some spirited attacking play from the visitors, Aston Villa held on to go within one point of second-place Chelsea, which plays Sunday at Manchester United.

Late goals enabled fifth-place Arsenal to stay in sight of the Champions League places with a 1-0 victory over Bolton and Sunderland to earn at 1-1 draw at local rival Middlesbrough.

Everton swept aside Hull 2-0 by and Newcastle drew 2-2 with West Ham.

Icy conditions

Frozen pitches forced the postponement of two topflight matches Saturday,
Portsmouth-Manchester City and Fulham-Blackburn, while much of the lower-league program was wiped out.

Looking for a first win at Villa Park in 30 years, West Brom made a promising start, but its domination produced nothing before the home side found the net from its first threatening advance.

Steve Sidwell had two headers cleared off the line, by Morrison and Jonathan Greening, before the ball eventually fell to Gareth Barry on the right flank.

The Villa captain whipped in a cross for Curtis Davies to nod past Carson for his first goal of the season.

Despite being jeered all afternoon, Davies barely celebrated the goal against his former side.

"I know they hate me but I've got no intention of letting them hate me even more,'' the English defender said.

Villa full of confidence

Villa looked more dangerous after gaining the advantage and the blunder by
Carson, gave Martin O'Neill's side another goal before the break.

From the halfway line, Barry released Agbonlahor to race down the left and cut into the penalty area unchallenged despite five West Brom players in proximity and not a single attacking man in support.

From a narrow angle, the England striker struck the ball across the goalmouth, but it was going wide until Carson managed to deflect it under his left arm and over the line.

Morrison ensured it would be a competitive second period by quickly pulling one back.

West Brom's leading scorer Roman Bednar, who had replaced Luke Moore, headed down to Morrison and the Scotland midfielder turned Martin Laursen before sending a shot past Brad Friedel, helped by a slight deflection off Davies.

West Brom had two penalty claims dismissed in stoppage time when Bednar was held off by Luke Young and Ashley Young clipped Slovenian Robert Koren.

"I think there was a decent shout for penalties twice,'' West Brom manager Tony Mowbray said.

"I don't think there was any contact with the ball.''

Mikel Arteta hits a blazing goal against Hull [GALLO/GETTY]
Bendtner's late show

Arsenal left it late to overcome a stubborn Bolton side with Nicklas Bendtner latching on to Robin van Persie's cross and sliding the ball in at the far post with six minutes remaining.

Arsene Wenger's side had looked set for another frustrating day as the Trotters' resilience combined with a lack of width and penetration had prevented Arsenal from creating more than a handful of half chances until the visitors tired in the last 25 minutes.

At Goodison Park, Everton helped to cement a top-six place by completing its fifth game without a defeat or conceding a goal.

Marouane Fellaini fired Everton ahead in the 18th despite the Belgium midfielder meeting a cross from Leighton Baines with a header from what appeared to be an offside position.

But there was no disputing Mikel Arteta's stunning 30-metre free kick, which found the net on the stroke of half time.

Sunderland striker Kenwyne Jones turned in David Healy's cross from close range in the 82nd to cancel out the powerful shot from Afonso Alves that put Middlesbrough ahead at the end of the first half.

Andy Carroll's 78th-minute header salvaged a point for Newcastle after West Ham strikers Craig Bellamy and Carlton Cole had cancelled out Michael Owen's early strike for the Magpies.

Leagues leaders Liverpool blew yet another chance to increase their lead in the late game at Stoke, a day after manager Rafa Benitez launched a scripted, five-minute outburst against United manager Alex Ferguson.

The Reds ended with a 0-0 stalemate with some frantic defending from the Potters in the dying minutes moving Tony Pulis' side out of the drop zone for at least 24 hours.

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