Milner Winner Boosts Villa

James Milner underlined his England World Cup credentials by netting the winner as Aston Villa enhanced their Champions League aspirations with a 2-1 victory at Wigan Athletic.

The midfielder was in superb form as Villa comfortably collected the win at the DW Stadium that moved them to within three points of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Villa had taken the lead midway through the first half through James McCarthy's own goal but Gary Caldwell levelled before Milner's long-ranger sealed the points.

Villa went into the match as the only unbeaten Premier League side in 2010 and they looked like maintaining that record early on.

Ashley Young thought he had given Martin O'Neill's men the lead on 16 minutes but his effort was chalked off after the linesman raised his flag for offside.

Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa then forced keeper Brad Friedel into action before the Latics pressed the self-destruct button.

Winger Stewart Downing's cross was headed back across the face of goal by John Carew and rookie midfielder McCarthy inadvertently turned the ball into his own goal.

But Roberto Martinez's men were behind for less than a minute - Charles N'Zogbia's dangerous cross flicking the head of defender Caldwell for the equaliser.

Villa should have led at half-time after Ashley Young released Carew in the box, but keeper Chris Kirkland stood tall to thwart the danger.

Buoyed by their let-off, Wigan started the second half well with Marcelo Moreno curling an effort narrowly wide of the post.

But Villa regained the lead in the 63rd minute as the home defence failed to clear an Ashley Young corner and Milner rifled the ball home from 25 yards.

Martinez's men were visibly deflated by the ex-Leeds midfielder's goal and the visitors went into cruise control.

Substitute Victor Moses attempted to force Wigan back into the game late on but Friedel made a routine save and Villa held on for the win.