0-15: Villa kicked off the first half and held possession well before earning an early free kick, which was worked well down the flank but defended just as well by Shamrock Rovers.
Villa regained possession and “Tony Moon” cut in from the left flank before unleashing a right footed drive which was well saved to earn a corner, which Nathan Baker headed wide from 9 yards out.
The home side’s first chance came in the 9th minute and ended with a clever block by Nathan Baker inside his own box and Luna cleaning up the scraps.
Agbonlahor and Benteke linked up well down the left flank and the former’s shot was well blocked for a corner but it was poorly taken and cleared easily.
The first 15 minutes were mostly spent in the hosts’ half but Villa definitely showed promise.
15-30: GOAL! A chipped ball forward was headed past the host’s goalkeeper by Benteke and laid back for the onrushing Andi Weimann to control and finish beautifully on 16 minutes.
Shamrock Rovers, however, immediately showed they were still in the game as O’Connor flashed a 25-yard effort just wide.
Lowton cut inside and fed Benteke, whose shot was well blocked after taking one touch too many and rolled out for a corner, which Baker again headed wide.
Shamrock Rovers’ first corner came in the 25th minute and was well cleared by Benteke; a follow up cross was put into the six-yard box and cleared for another corner by Lowton, with the second corner well claimed by Guzan.
Tonev fired a curling effort wide after a neat touch to lose his man following a pass by Agbonlahor.
GOAL! After some tantalising build up, Lowton curled a first time cross into the six-yard box which Benteke met with a diving header to make it 2-0 to the visitors on 30 minutes.
30-45: Tonev skipped past two men either side of a one-two with Agbonlahor and put a tempting left-footed cross into the six-yard box, which was cleared for a corner that the goalkeeper failed to claim but he escaped with the mistake unpunished.
Guzan rushed out to meet a long ball on the edge of his box before the onrushing Hoops’ striker.
A great Westwood corner was met by Benteke’s head and was cleared off the line just before the half-time whistle. It was a half which Villa had controlled but they were given a fight by the hosts.
Half time subs –
ON: Jores Okore, Ciaran Clark, Nicklas Helenius, Fabian Delph and Leandro Bacuna.
OFF: Aleksandar Tonev, Ron Vlaar, Matthew Lowton, Karim El Ahmadi and Antonio Luna.
45-60: The first action of the second half was Bacuna attempting a carbon copy of his stunning goal at Crewe, cutting inside from the right and unleashing with his left – but with less success this time around.
Benteke and Helenius linked well with a one-two on the edge of the box, with the giant Dane shooting tamely at the Rovers’ goalkeeper.
Another driven corner by Westwood was headed over by an unmarked Clark from 8 yards out.
Agbonlahor drove a left-footed effort to the far post after clever interplay with Benteke, with Weimann coming close to a simple tap-in.
60-75: Okore had an impressive first 15 minutes, reading several situations well, making important interceptions and exerting his physical presence to perfection.
A well-worked Villa corner led to a lay-off shot by Clark from 20-yards that was well held by Rovers’ ‘keeper.
We saw patient possession by Villa but they were lacking any real forward thrust.
ON: Yacouba Sylla, Gary Gardner and Samir Carruthers.
OFF: Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor and Ashley Westwood.
75-90: A late challenge by Baker resulted in a dangerous free-kick for Rovers: the delivery was useful and to the back post but defended well.
Samir Carruthers intercepted well in a dangerous position and fed Weimann on the right side. The Austrian then whipped a cross in from the by-line which Helenius headed a yard wide of the angle.
A clever move down Villa’s right flank, including Helenius and Weimann, found Carruthers, who turned and forced an impressive save from the goalkeeper.
The final 15 minutes were played at a rather processional pace but another clean sheet as well as some clever attacking play was the icing on the cake in a third successive victory.
Man of the Match: Christian Benteke – The Belgian powerhouse was instrumental in Villa’s victory today, setting up Andi Weimann with some great skill for the first goal and meeting Lowton’s perfect cross with a diving header for the second, as well as having a header from a corner cleared off the line.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1) – Guzan; Lowton, Vlaar, Baker, Luna; Westwood, El Ahmadi; Agbonlahor, Tonev, Weimann; Benteke
Subs: Steer, Okore, Clark, Bacuna, Helenius, Delph, Sylla, Gardner, Carruthers