A hat-trick delivered within the space of eight minutes by Gabriel Agbonlahor thrust Aston Villa to a 4-2 win over Manchester City at Villa Park. Things did not look brilliant for the visitors even before the referee blew the first whistle.
City's Bulgarian striker Valeri Bojinov hobbled off the field during the warm-up, to be replaced by Ched Evans. Later, it was announced the ex-Fiorentina player had snapped an Achilles tendon and can be expected to be unavailable for months.
After a goalless first half, John Carew was in exactly the right place when Gareth Barry crossed from the left shortly after the restart. Villa's Norwegian international had threatened to score in similar style following a corner just seven minutes into the match, but on that occasion he nodded just wide.
Fifteen minutes after Villa's opening goal, the referee awarded a penalty against Martin O'Neill's side when Ashley Young tripped defender Michael Johnson, and Elano made sure of a welcome opportunity to balance the score. However, seven minutes later, Agbonlahor put Villa ahead again with a close-range volley following a corner.
Just as the Villa Park fans were settling down from this excitement, the 21-year-old doubled the hosts' advantage with a header. It was followed in quick succession by his third, when he collected from Barry and sped towards the target, evading City keeper Joe Hart and finding the right-hand side of the net.
Faced with this unexpected onslaught, City manager Mark Hughes applied some emergency treatment, taking off the ineffective Evans and Gelson Fernandes and deploying Stephen Ireland and Daniel Sturridge instead. The tranfusion of few blood inspired a City recovery, with Vedran Corluka scoring from the left after the visitors won a corner.
The damage was, in truth, too severe for City to reverse and the day belonged to Agbonlahor and Villa.