LONDON, April 22- Aston Villa climbed into sixth place in the English Premier League and in sight of a spot amongst Europe's elite next season as they edged Hull nearer relegation with a 2-0 away win on Wednesday.
Gabriel Agbonlahor’s first-half goal and James Milner’s penalty 14 minutes from time saw Villa to a win that left the Midlands club just three points behind Tottenham Hotspur, who currently occupy fourth place and the last spot on offer to English clubs for next season’s Champions League, with three games to play.
Victory saw Villa leapfrog Liverpool and continued their revival after losing 7-1 to Premier League leaders Chelsea, who also knocked them out of the FA Cup, last month
"We’re in the mix," Villa manager Martin O’Neill told Sky Sports. "We’re going for everything and guaranteed nothing. We’re not even guaranteed to finish eighth in the league at this minute.
"We’ve gone above Liverpool with three games to go and that’s pretty exceptional. But where I’ve been pleased with the team is they’ve responded fantastically to the defeat at Stamford Bridge.
"We’ve come back and taken 10 out of the last 12 points. I think the team has shown a great deal of character all season and I think that was epitomised tonight."
Defeat left cash-strapped Hull three points from safety and on course for a return to the second-tier Championship.
And the loss was made worse by the sight of striker Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink being carried off on a stretcher after a clash of heads with Villa’s David Dunne.
Hull manager Iain Dowie, whose side are at home to Sunderland on Saturday, was left bemoaning the only "statistic that matters" after his team failed to take their chances.
"The stats say we’re better. We had more shots, crosses, more on target and 66 percent more corners," Dowie said.
"They all add up but the one that doesn’t is goals and that’s been the problem all year. Villa got the stat that matters."
He added: "There were some excellent passing moves and I can’t fault the commitment or effort of the players against an excellent side.
"This result makes it much more difficult but we’ve got nine more points to play for. We’ve got to make sure come Sunderland we put three points on the board – no question about that."
Hull gifted Villa their opener when Ibrahima Sonko and then Paul McShane saw attempted clearances charged down and Agbonlahor curled a shot into the top corner from a tight angle.
Stilyan Petrov then twice went close to doubling Villa’s lead before Hull missed an excellent chance in the 24th minute.
Vennegoor of Hesselink, played in by Kevin Kilbane, saw Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel block from eight yards out.
Kilbane then had a shot saved on the follow-up by the American and then, with only James Collins to beat on the line, saw his second attempt deflected over the bar by the Villa defender’s arm.
Early in the second half, Hull had another great chance to equalise but defender Steven Mouyokolo, right in front of goal, scuffed his shot and Friedel turned the ball over the bar.
There was then a lengthy stoppage after Dunne clashed heads with Vennegoor of Hesselink from the subsequent corner.
"Jan was out (unconscious) for three or four minutes," Dowie said. "He has gone for a CT scan so it’s very concerning."
Villa punished Hull’s wastefulness when Milner, after being fouled by George Boateng, scored from the penalty spot in the 76th minute.