Benteke scores twice, Aston Villa holds off Everton comeback in win
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — Christian Benteke scored twice as FA Cup finalist Aston Villa avoided dropping into the Premier League relegation zone on Saturday, beating lackluster Everton 3-2 at Villa Park.
Benteke scored in the 10th and 45th minutes before Romelu Lukaku got one back with a 59th-minute penalty for the Toffees, which had won five of its last six league matches.
Tom Cleverley added a third for Villa in the 64th before a goal by Phil Jagielka in the 90th made it a nervous end for the hosts.
Benteke's ninth and 10th goals in eight games helped Villa maintain its two-point cushion over the drop zone with just its fourth home league win of the season.
Threatening from the start, Benteke's first goal came when he powered in from Fabian Delph's cross. Villa doubled its lead in first half stoppage time when Benteke arrived unmarked at the far post to slam in his 13th goal of the season.
There seemed little way back for Roberto Martinez's side until Everton was handed a lifeline.
Villa failed to clear after Lukaku's run and Ron Vlaar produced a clumsy tackle on Steven Naismith for a penalty.
Lukaku calmly rolled in the spot kick for his 19th goal of the season to increase Villa's nerves.
But the hosts quickly regained their two-goal advantage when Leandro Bacuna's precise through ball sent Cleverley clear and he fired high past Howard.
Villa was left to sweat in injury time when goalkeeper Shay Given, under pressure, could only punch the ball against the bar and Jagielka headed in the rebound.