Downing delivers as Villa sink Clarets

The Clarets took a shock 10th-minute lead in the Premier League

clash through Steven Fletcher and all Villa could muster before

half-time was a fortuitous equaliser from Ashley Young. But four

goals in 13 minutes after the break from Downing (two), Emile

Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor kept Villa on course for a Champions

League spot before Martin Paterson’s late consolation. In contrast,

Burnley have now lost six of their last seven league games. It was

just the tonic Martin O’Neill’s side needed at the start of a

massive week with an FA Cup fifth-round replay against Crystal

Palace on Wednesday and the Carling Cup final next Sunday against

Manchester United at Wembley. Villa had only scored three goals in

their previous seven league games but still carried too much

firepower for Brian Laws’ side, who remain in the bottom three.

Burnley have still only taken one point on their travels and have

now conceded 43 goals in the process. Fit-again Agbonlahor teed up

Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov for the home side’s first chance on

the edge of the box but he dragged his shot well wide. Then Burnley

stunned Villa by taking the lead through Fletcher’s 11th goal of

the campaign. Jack Cork’s pass allowed David Nugent to break into

the Villa box and his low centre was turned home at the far post by

Fletcher, who had managed to remain on-side. It was Burnley’s first

away league goal in 550 minutes since Chris Eagles scored in the

5-3 defeat at West Ham on November 28. Nugent made a powerful burst

towards the Villa area and his shot took a deflection which had

goalkeeper Brad Friedel scrambling across his line before it

drifted just wide. It was 24 minutes before Villa created their

first clear-cut opening. Downing delivered a probing centre from

the right and Heskey flashed a glancing header only a couple of

feet wide of the far post. Villa finally drew level after 33

minutes through Ashley Young’s seventh goal of the campaign. Young

played a short corner to Milner, received the return pass and then

cut inside before firing a ball into the box which clipped Daniel

Fox before entering the net with Jensen unsighted. Jensen then got

his hand to a dipping shot from Ashley Young and the rebound hit

Downing but flew wide. Burnley skipper Clarke Carlisle became the

first player to be booked after 40 minutes for a late challenge on

Ashley Young. Villa took total command after the break and went

ahead in the 56th minute after a quick break down the left

involving Heskey and Agbonlahor. Ashley Young eventually sent over

a low cross and Downing drilled an angled shot into the corner of

the net. Three minutes later the former Middlesbrough player added

another. Jensen beat out a shot from Agbonlahor but Milner

responded quickest to the rebound, turned the ball back inside to

Downing and his shot deflected past Jensen. Then in Villa’s next

attack Heskey got on the scoresheet when he diverted a low centre

from Agbonlahor into the corner of the net. Burnley were now in

total disarray and after 69 minutes Agbonlahor completed Villa’s

nap hand. Heskey found Milner in space and Agbonlahor prodded the

ball home despite being under pressure from Carlisle. Agbonlahor

and Heskey left the pitch to standing ovations when replaced by

John Carew and Nathan Delfouneso respectively. Fletcher was

yellow-carded shortly afterwards for a foul on Villa left-back

Stephen Warnock. In a rare Burnley attack Friedel dealt with a

well-struck shot from Eagles but Villa’s quickfire scoring burst

had decided the contest. Clarets substitute Frederic Nimani was

booked for deliberate handball before Carew could have made it 6-1

but he dragged his close-range shot wide. In injury-time, Paterson

pulled one back for Burnley from Cork’s low centre.