Queens Park Rangers held Sunderland to a 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light, in a lively bottom of the table encounter in Harry Redknapp’s first game in charge of the Premier League strugglers.
Rangers looked like a different team in the opening half, with Adel Taarabt and Esteban Granero finding ample space in midfield and Djibril Cisse with a number of good chances to open the scoring, but they were unable to find that killer pass through the Black Cats’ defence.
Sunderland had similar troubles, with Danny Rose constantly looking for forward options from the left-back position without success, and Steven Fletcher and substitute Louis Saha unable to make an impact.
R's striker Cisse squandered a great chance in the third minutes to begin Redknapp’s reign in style, but somehow the Frenchman managed to glance his free-header down and wide from close range.
As the game continued the desperation of both teams grew, as they seemed to both opt for shot-on-sight tactics which failed to produce the goods.
But it was an encouraging start for Redknapp, who has clearly had some impact in his short time with the seemingly invigorated Rangers players, while Sunderland fans should be beginning to worry about their side’s continuing decline in form.
The game opened with speculation about Darren Bent’s future at the midlands club with the striker’s complete omission from the Villa squad, but Benteke - who was selected ahead of the Englishman - proved his worth and replayed his manager’s trust in scoring the winning goal 10 minutes from time.
The game was a fairly uneventful encounter between two teams who have hardly set the Premier League alight this season, but the introduction of Stephen Ireland and Marc Albrighton in the 65th minute really tipped the odds in Villa’s favour as they pushed on to grab the late goal.
A well delivered corner from Ashley Westwood was met well by Benteke, who climbed above two defenders in the box to prod his header down, with the ball evading a bundle of Reading and Villa players on its way into the net.
The relief from Paul Lambert was evident as he skipped toward the touchline as they sealed a vital three points, while Reading remain five points from safety and are unlikely to be looking forward to hosting Man United at the Madejski on Saturday.