x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Villa bury Burnley in 12 minutes

Martin O'Neill's side claim four goals in a crazy 12-minute spell in the second-half even though they were well below their best.

Aston Villa's Emile Heskey, centre, spins away to celebrate after making it 4-1 yesterday.
Aston Villa's Emile Heskey, centre, spins away to celebrate after making it 4-1 yesterday.

BIRMINGHAM // Clarke Carlisle, the Burnley defender, will make an appearance on the British television show Countdown - which features contestants' skill with numbers - later this week, but it was Aston Villa who played the numbers game yesterday as they scored five goals to boost their Champions League aspirations. While Manchester City and Liverpool played out a drab goalless draw at Eastlands, Martin O'Neill's side claimed four goals in a crazy 12-minute spell in the second-half even though they were well below their best.

The result moves Villa level on points with Liverpool and one point off City, right in the thick of the race for the fourth and final slot in Europe's premier competition next season. Burnley remain second bottom in the Premier League with only a club that could be out of existence in a week's time, Portsmouth, below them. Brian Laws' side have picked up just one point from 14 away games this season, and after taking an early lead through Steven Fletcher, it was the complete capitulation of the Burnley players that turned the game.

Ashley Young equalised before half-time and the visitors surrendered four goals in 12 second-half minutes; two scored in quick succession by Stewart Downing before Emile Heskey made it effectively game over. Gabriel Agbonlahor bundled home a fifth for Martin O'Neill's side before Martin Paterson's late consolation. O'Neill will be grateful for Burnley's generosity after coming into this game with just one win - and only three goals - from Villa's previous seven matches and with the Carling Cup final on the horizon next Sunday. "I really don't know if the end of the week was on their minds," O'Neill reflected. "We started off slowly but we had a great spell in the second half and that was more than enough."

Laws was left to reflect on a mental fragility that he thinks has been present in the Burnley side since long before he became the club's manager last month. "We had a crazy 12-minute spell and it cost us the game," he said. "We were blown out of the water after they scored their second because we were so open. "It's been the mentality all season and I thought I had changed it, but obviously not."

Burnley took the lead in the 10th minute when Jack Cork, on loan from Chelsea, kept his head in a midfield maelstrom to find David Nugent, whose delivery across the face of the goal was tapped in by Fletcher. The home crowd grew frustrated as they watched their side struggle to break down Burnley's five-man midfield, but they got back into the game through Young. Always the instigator, the England hopeful played a short corner with James Milner on 31 minutes, and whipped in a vicious ball that somehow seemed to evade a forest of legs before skimming off the boot of the unfortunate Danny Fox and past Brian Jensen, the Burnley goalkeeper.

Eleven minutes after the re-start, Downing opened the floodgates with a driven strike from inside the area after more good work from Young. Moments later he added his second, again with the aid of a deflection off Fox after Downing's shot from the edge of the box. Heskey turned in Agbonlahor's cross from the left before Villa's top scorer got on the scoresheet himself, bundling over after good work from Milner.

Paterson grabbed a late goal back for the visitors but it does not take a genius like Carlisle to work out that Burnley are in deep trouble while Villa have exciting times ahead. sports@thenational.ae