Premier League: Christian Benteke hat-trick as Aston Villa beat Sunderland 6-1
Christian Benteke scored a second-half hat-trick as Aston Villa hammered Sunderland 6-1 to boost their survival hopes.
Last Updated: 29/04/13 11:19pm
Villa edged an even first half following goals from Ron Vlaar and Andreas Weimann, either side of Danny Rose's reply, before running riot in the second half.
Benteke passed the 20-goal mark for the season with his treble and Gabriel Agbonlahor got in on the act late on as Sunderland also had key man Stephane Sessegnon sent off.
Sunderland had a couple of half-chances in the opening 10 minutes, but Villa old boy Craig Gardner could not pick out a team-mate after chesting the ball past Brad Guzan and then Sessegnon was unable to find Danny Graham.
Agbonlahor should have given Villa the lead on 26 minutes when he combined superbly with Benteke, but he prodded his shot wide of goal when clean through.
Just five minutes later, though, and Villa were in front when Vlaar collected the ball near the centre circle, strode forward and fired a low shot from fully 30 yards beyond Simon Mignolet for his first goal for the club.
Sunderland were level within two minutes when Rose exchanged a couple of one-twos, collecting a pass from Danny Graham before arcing his shot beyond Guzan.
Yet Villa regained the lead on 38 minutes when Matthew Lowton's excellent pass picked out the unmarked Weimann, who controlled the ball beautifully before slotting his shot past Mignolet.
Things got even better for Villa 10 minutes into the second half when Mignolet could only parry Agbonlahor's shot and Benteke stooped to head the loose ball into an unguarded net.
The goals kept on coming and Benteke notched his second of the game just before the hour mark when the imposing Belgian rose highest at the far post to head home Ashley Westwood's corner.
Weimann almost scored his second of the game on 66 minutes when his first attempt was saved by Mignolet and his follow-up was hacked off the line by ex-Villa defender Carlos Cuellar.
The Black Cats' evening hit a fresh low with 20 minutes to go when Sessegnon was sent off for a late challenge on Yacouba Sylla and the playmaker will now miss the final three games of the season.
And to rub salt into the wounds, Benteke completed his hat-trick two minutes later as Agbonlahor's flick deflected into his path off Cuellar and he squeezed a shot inside the near post.
With two minutes to go, Sunderland substitute David Vaughan's misplaced pass sent Agbonlahor through on goal and he rounded Mignolet to cap a wonderful night for Villa, who are now level on points with Sunderland and five ahead of the bottom three with three games to play.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Villa boss Paul Lambert lauded the impact of Benteke since his arrival from Genk last summer.
He's been absolutely world class. For somebody who has just come to this country, he's been absolutely brilliant.
"I thought for his goal from the corner he jumped the height of the crossbar, which was outstanding!"
Paolo Di Canio described the result as a 'humiliation' for Sunderland and confirmed the club will appeal Sessegnon's red card.
He said: "We saw the clip and there is not a bad challenge. In my opinion it wasn't a red card.
"In reality, when you see the clip there isn't any intention to damage the opponent. The leg was not raised. We're going to appeal, of course."