Christian Benteke kept Aston Villa’s hopes of Premier League survival alive with a stunning late free-kick which sealed a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw with relegation rivals Queens Park Rangers.In a topsy turvy basement battle at Villa Park which saw the teams exchange the lead several times, the hosts were left indebted to the Belgian striker’s timely return of form, as his fine hat-trick ensured his side remain out of the bottom-three.QPR took the lead early in the first half when Matthew Phillips took advantage of some poor defending to head in, but Benteke struck twice to put Villa in front before half-time.Chris Ramsey’s men looked down and out but they emerged from the break with fire in their bellies, and Clint Hill soon headed in from a corner to level to scores, with star man Charlie Austin firing the Super Hoops in front moments later.Holding on for the win would have seen Rangers climb out of the relegation zone, but Benteke was on hand to bail out Tim Sherwood’s charges, slamming his dead-ball effort in off the inside of the post to leave the London side still three points from safety.Having conceded over 100 goals between them so far this season, it seemed inevitable the game would be a tale of two defences, rather than their prowess in front of goal.And so it proved, as Aston Villa fell behind after just seven minutes courtesy of Phillips, who was completely unmarked as he nodded in at the far post from Bobby Zamora’s clever cross.However, Rangers’ defence was possibly even worse at times and Villa hit back almost instantly, with Benteke rediscovering his scoring boots to put the hosts ahead before the break.He pulled Villa level with a fine effort, curling the ball beyond the reach of the sprawling Rob Green, and his second was the result of a clinical counter attack.Benteke found himself clean through from inside his own half after a defensive clearance and raced towards goal, holding off two chasing centre-backs and delaying his shot until the final moment before wrong-footing Green with a dinked effort at his near post.The hosts were well on top at the break and looked on their way to a victory which would have seen them go five points clear of the drop, but they hit self-destruct in the second half with some shocking defending which saw QPR take the lead and Sherwood raging on the sidelines.Rangers’ 36-year-old captain Hill was untracked at a corner as his looped header pulled the visitors level, and Phillips then got the better of Kieran Richardson on the edge of the box before finding Austin, who found the net with a neat swivel and shot from 12 yards.It was courageous stuff from the London outfit, who are desperate to escape the clutches of relegation, but again it was a mistake which handed Villa a point.Goalscorer Hill clumsily brought down substitute Charles N’Zogbia on the edge of the area, with Benteke keeping his cool to smash home to secure the draw as well as the match ball. Aston Villa’s hat-trick hero Christian Benteke 1
This is Sane’s sixth goal of the season Latest Premier League News Mahrez’s goal had seemingly put City on course for an easy win Where Ancelotti ranks with every Premier League boss for trophies won huge blow tense Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers another setback as Klopp confirms serious injury Manchester City managed to get through a late Watford fightback to secure a 2-1 win at Vicarage Road and restore their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.In a game the Citizens dominated, Leroy Sane got the breakthrough goal just before half-time, with Riyad Mahrez making it 2-0 after 51 minutes. 4 Abdoulaye Doucoure bundled the ball over the line with five minutes remaining to ensure a nervy conclusion for Pep Guardiola’s side, but the champions held firm to secure their seventh consecutive Premier League win, and put the pressure firmly back on Liverpool, who travel to Burnley on Wednesday.City’s match at Vicarage Road was their second of 13 in the space of just 44 days, and Guardiola made six changes from the team that won against Bournemouth on Saturday, with top scorer Raheem Sterling dropping to the bench.The changes in personnel however, had little effect on Guardiola’s well-oiled machine, and only the brilliance of Ben Foster ensured City didn’t head into the interval with more than a one-goal advantage.First, Foster denied Sane after 11 minutes. Roberto Pereyra gave the ball away to the super-quick German international who charged down on Foster’s goal. Green reveals how he confronted Sarri after Chelsea’s 6-0 defeat at Man City REVEALED Which teams do the best on Boxing Day in the Premier League era? Boxing Day fixtures: All nine Premier League games live on talkSPORT Son ban confirmed as Tottenham fail with appeal to overturn red card deals Watford had the brilliant Foster to thank for keeping them in the game no dice shining Sane attempted a dink, but Foster stuck out his left glove, and turned the ball away for a corner.Minutes later, Foster was called upon again, producing a fine treble save, first from Mahrez, then smothering Bernado Silva’s effort, before kicking the ball away from the feet of David Silva.It was desperate and heroic in equal measure, and Foster then had to be on alert again to prevent Gabriel Jesus from beating him at his near post.The hosts were firmly on the back foot, but after 32 minutes, a fine save from Ederson denied Troy Deeney. Premier League Team of the Season so far, including Liverpool and Leicester stars City have won all 18 of their games in which they have led at half-time, and Mahrez looked to have made sure of the points six minutes after the interval.Sane, Bernado Silva and Jesus were all involved on City’s left-hand side, with the latter finding Mahrez unmarked, and the former Leicester winger made no mistake with a cool finish.City were in complete control, as the oles rang out from the visiting section on the hour mark.But, to their credit, Watford did not give up, and Doucoure tested Ederson with 15 minutes remaining before scoring in the closing minutes.Ederson saved at the feet of Andre Gray following a cross from Gerard Deulofeu, but Doucoure was on hand to get the ball over the line. Man United transfer news live: Haaland ‘wants a change’, two players off in January 4 Doucoure lobbed the ball over his head to find Deeney, whose side-footed effort was turned away by Ederson.The Brazilian dived the wrong way, but kept the ball out with his legs.Normal order was restored just eight minutes later, however, when Sane made the breakthrough.Mahrez whipped the ball in from City’s right-hand side, and Foster saved from David Silva, but the ball fell to Mahrez again, and this time, the Algerian found Sane at the back post, who chested the ball past Foster, and into the back of the net. 4 REVEALED gameday cracker 4 Doucoure’s late goal breathed new life into the contest Watford went in search of what would have been the most unlikely of equalisers, but it was City who took the three points, and the league leaders will now bid to extend their winning run when they travel to Chelsea on Saturday evening – a game you can listen to live on talkSPORT.