Bristol Rovers 1-3 Aston Villa

By Marc HigginsonBBC Sport
Stiliyan Petrov
Stiliyan Petrov supplied the defence-splitting pass for Aston Villa's opening goal

Aston Villa cruised into the fourth round of the FA Cup with a comfortable victory over Bristol Rovers.

Marc Albrighton set the visitors on their way with a low drive, before Gabriel Agbonlahor capitalised on a mistake to fire home from 30 yards.

Ciaran Clark's fine individual goal put Villa in control before a late rally from the hosts.

Scott McGleish lobbed Brad Guzan to salvage some pride, but missed from the spot in the final minute of the match.

After weathering an early burst of enthusiasm, Villa's victory was never in doubt and Rovers will be upset with the way they allowed their top-flight opponents to stroke the ball around, seemingly at will.

Once they went into the lead, Villa looked like they were out on the training ground, such was the ease with which they dominated possession.

The Pirates, who stand only two points clear of the League Two relegation zone and , staged a late fightback but it was all too little, too late.

In front of a bumper crowd, the hosts made a swashbuckling start to the match - the highlight being a Chris Zebroski shot that was easily dealt with by Guzan.

However, for all their huff and puff, Rovers struggled to create many clear-cut chances and it did not take long for Villa to establish their superiority.

It was not particularly pretty from the Premier League side, with too many passes going astray, but they did manage to create enough chances to earn a narrow half-time lead.

Emile Heskey twice went close, with a shot over the bar and a header that was well saved by Michael Poke, before Alex McLeish's side finally got their noses in front.

Albrighton, who was proving to be Villa's best outlet down the right flank, was sent scampering clear by Stiliyan Petrov's clever pass and he made no mistake with an angled shot from inside the penalty area.

Rovers caught their opponents cold in the early stages of the second half, but McGleish could only scuff Joe Anyinsah's pull-back with the goal at his mercy.

Agbonlahor was brought on by McLeish, perhaps in a bid to inject some urgency into his team's performance - and the move paid dividends.

With the match drifting, the England striker took things into his own hands by outmuscling his marker before striding forward and clinically placing his shot into the bottom corner.

Rovers remained short on inspiration despite their endeavour, but Anyinsah did force a corner with a low drive that Guzan turned around the post.

And victory was completed for Villa when the impressive Clark surged forward from the back and cut inside before placing his shot past Poke.

However, there was still time for some late drama.

McGleish capitalised on a poor Richard Dunne backpass to race clear and beat the advancing Guzan, before hopes of an incredible comeback were raised when Stephen Warnock was penalised for handball in the area.

McGleish stepped up, but saw his tame effort saved by the Villa goalkeeper.

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