Aston Villa got back on track in spectacular fashion as Martin O’Neill’s side thrashed Bolton 5-1 at Villa Park on Saturday.
The hosts, who suffered an agonising last-gasp defeat at West Ham in midweek, moved into fifth place in the Premier League thanks to goals from Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor, John Carew, James Milner and Carlos Cuellar.
Johan Elmander had got one back from Bolton after Young and Agbonlahor’s first half goals, but Bolton never threatened to take a point and have now conceded 13 goals in their last three matches.
O’Neill installed Nigel Reo-Coker as captain in place of the suspended Stiliyan Petrov after handing the midfielder his first league start since a training ground spat with the Villa boss.
Young had a fierce volley deflected for a corner early on and from the resulting set-piece Bolton goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen made a fine save to keep out a close range header from Cuellar.
O’Neill’s men were well on top and took the lead in the fifth minute.
Milner’s cross picked out Carew and Jaaskelainen could only parry his header to Young, who reacted smartly to lash the rebound into the roof of the net.
Former Villa centre-back Gary Cahill let Bolton’s response when he met Matt Taylor’s cross with an effort that forced Brad Friedel into action for the first time.
Bolton lost midfielder Tamir Cohen to injury midway through the first half and Swedish striker Elmander came on.
Villa remained well on top and Carew had a header saved by Jaaskelainen before Agbonlahor increased their lead.
Cahill was at fault as he tried to let the ball run out for a goal-kick under pressure from Carew in the 43rd minute.
The Norway forward managed to muscle his way ahead of Cahill and cut the ball back to Agbonlahor, who shot through the legs of both Paul Robinson and Jaaskelainen into the far corner.
Just as Bolton looked dead and buried, Elmander gave the visitors a lifeline in the 45th minute.
Cahill, desperate to make amends for his error, struck the post with his shot from a free-kick and Elmander was on hand to bundle the rebound over the line.
Bolton’s only chance of an equaliser arrived early in the second half when Fabrice Muamba’s volley was too close to Friedel.
That was enough of a warning for Villa and they quickly restored their two-goal lead. In the 53rd minute, Milner played the ball into Carew and he held off Knight and nutmegged Cahill before clipping his shot into the corner of the net.
Villa were awarded a penalty in the 72nd minute when Kevin Davies fouled Carew. Milner’s spot-kick was saved by Jaaskelainen, then Agbonlahor hit the post with the rebound before Milner finally tapped in.
There was still time for a fifth goal three minutes later when defender Cuellar headed in Milner’s cross.
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