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Villa makes survival statement against Sunderland

Aston Villa strengthened its hopes of Premier League survival on Monday thanks to a resounding 6-1 victory over 10-man Sunderland at Villa Park.

After a largely uneventful opening half-hour, the match exploded with three goals coming in the span of seven minutes before Christian Benteke put the win on ice with a second-half hat trick.

Villa grabbed the lead through Ron Vlaar's superb strike from distance in the 31st minute.

Sunderland equalized just one minute later through a well-worked give-and-go with Danny Graham releasing Danny Rose into the penalty area, allowing the defender to slot home a cool finish.

But six minutes later, Aston Villa restored its lead when Andres Weimann collected a long ball played into the box and curled a low shot around Simon Mignolet to the far post.

Villa put the match to bed in the second half thanks to Benteke's three-goal performance.

The Belgian striker notched his first of the match in the 55th minute when he nodded home a rebound conceded by Mignolet.

Benteke grabbed his second four minutes later by rising high to meet a corner kick and heading the delivery just inside the unmarked back post.

Things went from bad to worse for Sunderland when Stephane Sessegnon was issued a harsh red card for a studs-first challenge in the 70th minute, and Villa needed just two minutes to make the most of the extra man as Benteke beat the offside trap on the near side of the penalty area before firing a shot past Mignolet at the near post.

Gabriel Agbonlahor wrapped up the affair two minutes from time, running on to a misplaced backpass to go around Mignolet and slot the ball into the empty net.

Villa climbs to 37 points to go level with Sunderland and Newcastle as all three clubs sit five points clear of the drop with three matches to play.