Premier League: Aston Villa 6 Sunderland 1
Christian Benteke scored a hat-trick as Aston Villa demolished Sunderland 6-1 at Villa Park on Monday night.
Ron Vlaar's screamer was swiftly equalised by Danny Rose but Andreas Weimann slotted Villa's second home before the Belgian took over in the second half to blow Paolo Di Canio's side away, with Stephane Sessegnon also being shown his marching orders for the away side.
Paul Lambert made one change from his side's defeat to Manchester United with Yacouba Sylla replacing Charles N'Zogbia while Sunderland brought in Phil Bardsley for Jack Colback and Craig Gardner returned from suspension with James McClean making way.
Gabriel Agbonlahor wasted a glorious opportunity to give Villa an early lead as he picked the ball up 35 yards from goal and, after a neat interchange with Benteke, found himself with only Simon Mignolet to beat, but he put his effort wide.
The game sparked into life in the 30th minute as both sides scored in a matter of minutes.
Villa skipper Vlaar picked the ball up 30 yards from goal after Ashley Westwood's shot was blocked and arrowed a marvellous strike into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Sunderland responded immediately and were level just two minutes later. Rose knocked a neat a one-two with Danny Graham, driving into the box and placing his shot beyond the outstretched arm of Guzan.
As the game became frantic, Villa once more gained the initiative when Matthew Lowton intercepted a cross-field pass and played a quick ball into Weimann, who took a touch into the box before coolly passing the ball into the corner to restore the home-side's lead.
The visitors had the ball in the net once again before half-time. Former Villa man Gardner prodded in but referee Lee Probert had already called play back for Danny Graham clattering Guzan.
After a tense opening to the second half, Benteke came to life and netted his first in the 54th minute. Agbonlahor created space for the left-footed shot, which took a deflection to leave Mignolet off balance and he could only parry it to Benteke who headed into the empty goal.
The Belgian put the game beyond all doubt just five minutes later when he leapt above Carlos Cuellar to meet a Westwood corner that he powered into the bottom of the net to leave Sunderland reeling.
Things went from bad to worse for Di Canio as Sessegnon was shown a straight red card for a late, studs-up challenge on Sylla. The fifth goal followed soon after as Benteke completed his treble in the 72nd minute. Cuellar could only knock an Agbonlahor pass into the striker's path and he kept his composure to place a left-shot beyond the goalkeeper.
With the jubilant home crowd demanding a sixth, they got their wish as Agbonalhor latched onto a loose back-pass from substitute David Vaughan, before rounding Mignolet tapping into the unguarded net.
The win moves Villa five points above 18th-placed Wigan, and they now have a better goal difference than Roberto Martinez's side, who they face on the last day of the season.