Aston Villa 3-3 QPR: Five talking points from Villa Park clash

Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates

Jack Wilkinson looks at five talking points from Tuesday’s relegation battle between Aston Villa and Queen Park Rangers, which saw Christian Benteke's stunning hat-trick single-handedly keep Rangers at bay in the race for Premier League survival.

Benteke claws Rangers back

Having hit the back of the net 23 times in his debut season at Villa Park, the spotlight has been on the Belgian striker to rekindle that form and haul his relegation-threatened side to safety. His early season form was poor - just two goals to show in the first 18 league games of the season arguably dropped Villa into the predicament they find themselves in, but he has hit back in emphatic fashion with seven goals in his last five league outings.

Villa's last midweek do-or-die relegation home game came two years ago against Sunderland. Benteke scored a hat-trick that day as well and Villa stayed in the top flight. And while they failed to claim the three points on Tuesday, the question now is whether he can propel the club to safety once again?

Austin takes full advantage of reprieve

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 07:  Charlie Austin of QPR (9) celebrates with Matt Phillips as he scores their third goal during the Barclays Premier League m
Image: Charlie Austin made the most of his second-half repreive

With the game locked at 2-2, a frustrated Austin went in with studs showing on Villa midfielder Carlos Sanchez. Referee Craig Pawson brandished a yellow card, although replays suggest the striker was lucky not to have seen a red. Within 20 minutes, Austin looked to have taken full advantage of the let-off. His first touch was impeccable before rifling home Matt Phillips’ cross home for his 17th goal in 29 games to give his side a 3-2 lead. Tim Sherwood insisted he didn’t see the incident, but had the game finished in Rangers' favour, perhaps more would have been made of the striker's clumsy challenge.

Grealish's surprise inclusion

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Jack Grealish of Aston Villa during the FA Cup Third Round match between Aston Villa and Blackpool at Villa Park on January 04, 2015 in Birmingham, England
Image: Jack Grealish: Stared his first Premier League game for Aston Villa

Jack Grealish replaced Andreas Weimann in the Villa starting line-up to make his first Premier League start for his boyhood club. The 19-year-old said it was a "dream come true" to commit his long-term future to Villa by signing a four-year deal at the start of the season. And, after been blooded with a number of substitute appearances, Sherwood felt he was ready to make the step up in the season-defining game against QPR.

After being expected to start wide, Sherwood opted to play the highly-rated prospect behind Gabby Agbonlahor and Cristian Benteke as a playmaker. The gamble failed to pay off though as he was subbed with 20 minutes remaining following a lightweight display.

Clint Hill's first Premier League strike

Clint Hill of QPR celebrates
Image: Clint Hill: Finally scored his first Premier League goal

Clint Hill finally ended his wait for a Premier League goal with his side's second at Villa Park, three years after he was wrongfully denied his first. With Rangers in the midst of another relegation scrap at the tail-end of the 2011/12 season, Hill thought he put his side into the lead against Bolton. But neither referee Martin Atkinson, nor his assistants, saw the centre-back's near-post header clearly go over the line and Mark Hughes’ side went on to lose the game 2-1.

Tuesday's effort - his first in 66 top flight matches - will count for little if Rangers fail to beat the drop, and Hill will have his eye on keeping clean sheets rather than adding to his goal tally. "I'm just glad I got it (because) it's been bugging me for a number of years. I'm 37 years old now and you don't think you'll ever play another Premier League game so I'm glad that's off my back."

Work still to do for Villa and Rangers

Tim Sherwood manager of Aston Villa  and Chris Ramsey manager of QPR embrace prior to the Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers at Villa Park
Image: Difficult games on the horizon for pals Sherwood and Ramsey

The 3-3 draw did little to boost either sides' chances of survival, leaving the two clubs where they had started the evening, three points apart and hovering over the drop zone with plenty still to do. Rangers have two London derbies to tackle as Chelsea and West Ham both make the trip to Loftus Road. Their first five league victories all came at home and the Hoops will be trying to rekindle that early form as their bid for survival continues.

Villa, meanwhile, have an FA Cup semi-final on the horizon against Liverpool or Blackburn at Wembley. Before that, Sherwood takes his new club to his former as Villa go in search of their first three points at Tottenham since September 2008. Manchester City lie in wait after the trip to Wembley before Everton and West Ham travel to the West Midlands.

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