Football - Benteke-inspired Villa hit Black Cats for six

Christian Benteke scored a second-half hat-trick as Aston Villa roared to their biggest win since 2008 and zoomed five points clear of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone by beating Sunderland 6-1.

PA Sport

As they celebrated their success over a Sunderland outfit whose shuddering halt to their mini-revival included a red card for Stephane Sessegnon, the home fans wasted no time in taunting Paolo Di Canio, who, when he came here with Swindon earlier this season, indicated Villa were on their way down.

The touchpaper was lit by a pair of memorable strikes as Ron Vlaar and Danny Rose traded goals.

After a couple of brave blocks inside the Sunderland penalty area, the ball shot back towards the halfway line, where Vlaar collected on the edge of the centre circle. The big Dutchman surged forward and netted from fully 30 yards.

But the visitors hit back. Rose exchanged passes with Craig Gardner, then Danny Graham, and powered on into the box, delivering a superb finish.

Yet Sunderland were soon caught with too many men forward, Matthew Lowton delivered a fine crossfield pass and an unmarked Andreas Weimann did the rest.

And 10 minutes into the second period, Villa had a third as goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was deceived by Gabriel Agbonlahor's piledriver and Benteke, onside, was all alone to nod the rebound into an empty net.

And he had only just got started on his evening's work as he rose above Carlos Cuellar to steer home a far post header before driving his third past a shellshocked Mignolet, his 22nd goal of an incredible campaign.

In between, Sessegnon was dismissed for a tackle that flattened Yacouba Sylla and their misery was completed in the final minute as Agbonlahor raced round Mignolet to end the rout.

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