BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) - Christian Benteke scored a hat trick as Aston Villa twice came from behind against Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday to draw 3-3 and stay out of the relegation zone.
Benteke’s final goal came directly from a free kick in the 83rd minute of a thrilling encounter at Villa Park.
Villa remains three points clear of the relegation zone where QPR sits in 18th place with six games to go, two points behind Hull.
In an action-packed opening 10 minutes, Matt Phillips’ headed opener for QPR was canceled out by Benteke, who then completed a counterattack to give Villa the halftime lead.
QPR responded after the break with goals from Clint Hill and Charlie Austin and was poised to climb above Hull and send Villa into the bottom three.
But Benteke came to Villa’s rescue with his seventh goal in five league games.
“The situation we know is hard now, every game is going to be crucial for us,” Benteke said. “We need to keep fighting until the end.”
QPR was in front in the seventh minute when Phillips met Bobby Zamora’s cross.
Villa levelled just 151 seconds later when Fabian Delph played in Benteke and the striker was given too much time to cut in from the left, with his shot deflecting off Steven Caulker and past goalkeeper Rob Green.
Villa recovered from the early setback and was in control when Benteke grabbed his second in the 33rd. Carlos Sanchez’s tackle on the edge of his own box fell to Gabriel Agbonlahor to send Benteke clear. The Belgian still had to run the length of the half but he cut inside Hill and sent Green the wrong way with a composed finish from 16 yards (meters).
Agbonlahor then glanced a header inches wide as Villa looked for a killer third but it never came and the home side paid the price 10 minutes after the break.
QPR had offered little threat since going behind but Hill headed in his first Premier League goal from Phillips’ corner after out-muscling Ciaran Clark.
The deflated hosts began to give QPR hope, and Austin scored in the 78th. Phillips was involved again as he wriggled free on the right and found the forward in space to strike under Guzan from seven yards.
But Charles N’Zogbia was fouled by Hill, and Benteke curled in a 25-yard free kick off the post and into the net.
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