Aston Villa 2 Middlesbrough 0

Martin Laursen marked his return to Premiership duty after a six-month absence when he came to Aston Villa's rescue with his first ever goal for the Midlands club.

Teenager Luke Moore later got into the goalscoring act to notch his first Premiership goal for Villa who capitalised upon some weak Middlesbrough defensive play to chalk up their first win in six games.

Laursen was delighted with his goalscoring return after such a long spell on the sidelines. He suffered serious knee ligament damage in the 3-0 defeat at Charlton in August.

Afterwards Villa boss David O'Leary admitted: "It was a big game for us and the win was vital. After the Everton game things had to be said.

"It has to be noted that we were playing a side who had spent £50million and we emerged with a vital win.

"Obviously, we need a little more steel and more quality in the side but this will take some time to achieve."

Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren was extremely disappointed with his side's display, saying: "I cannot explain this performance. But it happens.

"There are no excuses. Villa played with more passion and urgency in the second half and deserved to win. Both goals came from dead-ball situations and that isn't good.

"I've just got to write this game off very quickly. There are still nine league games to be played and we are still in Europe.

"We now have to concentrate on our next game against Sporting Lisbon."

Villa had to be happy with the outcome after what is now an annual late winter pre-match red-card protest by their fans against the club's veteran chairman, Doug Ellis.

It did little to encourage the players in the early stages and early frustration manifested itself when Villa struggled to lift their game in a disappointing goalless first half.

There was disenchantment about the whole affair which was compounded with both teams playing a 4-5-1 formation.

The Villa rearguard was generally given an easy ride by a Middlesbrough side which rarely posed any real problems. It was obvious that the game cried out for some inventive play but it never materialised.

The only dangerous moment of the first half occurred when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink engineered himself into a firing position only for Jlloyd Samuel to spot the danger and deflect the shot for a corner.

Bolo Zenden went close to opening the goal account when Laursen became involved in a mix-up but the Middlesbrough player stumbled and handled the ball.

The miss of the game fell to Nolberto Solano early in the second half. Carlo Nash deflected a Darius Vassell shot to the Peruvian but he had his back to goal and fired agonisingly wide.

Solano, however, made amends in the 64th minute when his corner was flicked on by substitute Luke Moore at the far post where Laursen bundled the ball into the net with his thigh.

Moore wrapped up the points by firing home from close range with 11 minutes left.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Martin Laursen (Aston Villa) - Didn't put a foot wrong on his belated return and capped a fine display with his first goal for the club.