sport

Villa claim Hull scalp

Aston Villa moved up to third in the early Premier League table with a 2-1 win over Hull City at Villa Park.

Fabian Delph hit the bar in the second minute in a sign of things to come and 12 minutes later Gabby Agbonlahor put Villa ahead with a strike into the bottom corner after being picked out by Andreas Weimann.

Weimann then added Villa's second on 36 minutes from Kieran Richardson's pass after Hull debutant Michael Dawson had given the ball away.

Ashley Westwood put a free-kick onto the bar just before the break as a dominant Villa went in two goals to the good.

Hull improved after the break and Nikica Jelavic pulled a goal back with 16 minutes remaining after his header at goal from a free-kick hit Aly Cissokho.

This set up a nervy finish for the hosts but Paul Lambert's side held on to maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League campaign.

Villa had the look of a crisis club towards the end of the 2013-14 campaign, with manager Lambert under intense pressure, owner Randy Lerner trying to sell the club and internal discord rife, but seven points from a possible nine paints a rosier picture this time around.

Villa had to settle for a 2-1 victory but should really have enjoyed a more handsome scoreline, dominating first-half proceedings completely.

Hull were abject in those 45 minutes, arguably as bad as they have been since their return to the top flight, but tightened up after the interval and found a lifeline via Jelavic's header.

Both sides had been responding to midweek setbacks, Lambert's side beaten by Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup and the Tigers ousted from the Europa League on away goals.

Each made seven changes from those games and there was little doubt about which side settled quicker.

Villa's dominance began almost immediately, with just 90 seconds gone when Delph latched on to Weimann's pass and lashed an angled shot against the outside of the near post.

That energetic start appeared to catch the visitors cold and they regressed immediately to some uncharacteristic long balls.

Lambert's side attacked with more forethought, Delph, Weimann and Agbonlahor looking to use their pace against a Hull defence including debutant Dawson.

The opener arrived shortly before the quarter-hour mark, Jelavic mis-controlling a pass back into his own half to set up a Villa break.

Within seconds the ball was in the net, Charles N'Zogbia finding Weimann, whose deft touch gave Agbonlahor just enough room to turn and shoot low past Allan McGregor from 10 yards.

A second almost followed within two minutes, Curtis Davies gifting possession to Agbonlahor, who fizzed a cross into the six-yard box where Dawson made a hurried clearance.

Hull briefly threatened a response around the half-hour mark, Tom Huddlestone's free-kick deflected wide by Weimann before Mark Clattenburg waved away penalty appeals for a Westwood handball.

Villa soon regained control, though, aided by some dreadful resistance.

They doubled their lead in the 36th minute when Dawson's loose ball was won by Delph, spread wide to Richardson and finished in two succinct touches by Weimann.

It was a moment to forget for the Hull debutant but another clinical reaction by Villa's forward line.

It might easily have been three before half-time, Agbonlahor denied by McGregor's feet and Westwood curling a free-kick against the upright with McGregor nowhere.

Hull captain Davies did not emerge for the second half, replaced by Liam Rosenior to force a change of shape to four at the back.

Ten minutes later and with no sign of a change in momentum, Steve Bruce made his second change.

This time Tom Ince, nearly anonymous in his attempts to link midfield and attack, gave way for Robbie Brady, fresh from two goals against Lokeren on Thursday.

Lambert's first change came soon after, Carlos Sanchez on for N'Zogbia, and if the substitutions were contributing to an increasingly disjointed feeling then it hardly mattered to the side with a two-goal cushion.

That almost increased to three when McGregor slipped fielding Dawson's back pass, but the ball did not fall for the harrying Weimann.

Then, against all expectations, Hull instigated a tense finale by grabbing a lifeline 16 minutes from time.

The lively Brady was involved, his drifting free-kick headed goalwards by Jelavic only for Cissokho to wrong-foot his own goalkeeper with a deflection.

In an instant the game had a new spark, Delph bringing the home fans back to their feet with a fine run and shot before Jake Livermore took aim at the other end.

His strike from the edge of the box was destined for the top corner but Brad Guzan made his first save of the match a crucial one.

Both sides had chances in injury-time, substitute Darren Bent dragging wide from a good position and fellow replacement Sone Aluko firing directly at Guzan with the visitors' final chance.