ROTHERHAM UNITED’s League Cup campaign came to an end as Premiership giants Aston Villa cruised into the third round following a comfortable victory at Villa Park.
Despite a positive start by the Millers, the home side took control of the proceedings following first-half strikes from Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke before Fabian Delph booked their passage into the next round with a third shortly after the break.
Following their hard-earned point with Shrewsbury Town at the weekend, Steve Evans made one change to the starting line-up with Rob Milsom drafted in at the expense of Matt Tubbs, who dropped to the bench.
Daniel Nardiello missed out through suspension because of his red card against the Shrews while Danny Hylton earned a place among the substitutes.
Villa fielded a strong line-up as Holland international Ron Vlaar skippered the side while the headline acts were highly-rated Benteke and England international Gabby Agbonlahor.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Kari Arnason was forced to put behind in the early seconds before Agbonlahor had a sight of goal when Craig Morgan only half-cleared a Joe Bennett cross but he was quickly closed down.
Michael O’Connor had the first sight of the home goal when his cross was deflected for a corner before Mark Bradley’s arrowed ball almost put Alex Revell in the clear moments later.
Minutes later, Lee Frecklington earned a corner and from the resultant set-piece, Ben Pringle swung a delightful centre which saw Revell climb highest but he couldn’t make contact.
The Millers then came within a whisker of the breakthrough when Frecklington pounced on the loose ball in the Villa box before sliding a ball across the face of the goal from the byline but Revell failed to connect at the near post despite having the goal at his mercy before Bennett snuffed out the danger.
However, against the run of play, Villa broke the deadlock on 18 minutes when Arnason’s misplaced pass was pounced upon by Weimann, who advanced menacingly towards the edge of the box as the Millers backtracked before unleashing a rasping drive which dipped into the top corner of the goal.
The visitors responded bravely and Pringle worked a yard of space on Ashley Westwood before fizzing a cross which saw Kieran Agard almost nip in front of his marker before home ‘keeper Jed Steer was forced to punch clear under pressure from Revell.
At the other end, Agbonlahor’s persistence paved the way for Benteke to power his way into the box but his cross-cum-shot was blocked by a retreating Arnason.
Just past the half hour, Delph saw yellow for a wild lunge on Frecklington near the touchline before Revell looped a header harmlessly wide of the target as he met a hanging Joe Skarz centre.
However, the home side took a grip on the encounter when they doubled their advantage five minutes before the interval.
Arnason dallied in possession and Villa released Agbonlahor on the right flank, who floated a tantalising cross which saw Benteke rise highest at the far post to plant a powerful header which smacked against the inside of the post before finding the net.
With half-time approaching, Agbonlahor cut inside before unleashing a drive which whistled past the upright before Pringle almost gave the Millers a glimmer of hope on the stroke of half-time when he flashed a drive which had Steer nervously scurrying across goal but it flew inches wide of the target.
Half-time:- Aston Villa 2 Rotherham United 0
Despite a good start by the Millers to the second 45, Villa sealed their passage to the third round when they notched their third goal seven minutes into the half.
Weimann injected pace into the move finding Delph, who exchanged passes with Benteke, whose clever flick saw the ex-Leeds midfielder cleverly cut inside Morgan before sliding the ball past the outstretched hand of Shearer to find the bottom corner of the goal.
The home side were threatening to run riot and Agbonlahor led a quick counter-attack leaving Milsom grasping for thin air but despite a two-on-one, Westwood’s shot was blocked by a retreating defender before Leandro Bacuna’s superb cross found Bennett unmarked at the far post moments later, but his powerful header was blocked at point-blank range by Shearer.
The Millers bravely continued to rally and after Jores Okore was penalised for climbing over Revell, O’Connor almost gave the travelling contingent something to cheer when his curling free-kick narrowly shaved the crossbar before Revell had a snap shot blocked by a retreating home defender minutes later.
Sub Aleksandar Tonev blazed a shot into the Holte End before Revell’s flick-on paved the way for the advancing Frecklington to strike a fierce effort which stung the palms of Steer at the other end.
Full-time:- Aston Villa 3 Rotherham United 0
Aston Villa- Steer, Bennett, Vlaar, Okore, Bacuna, El Ahmadi, Weimann, Agbonlahor (Tonev 66), Westwood, Delph (Sylla 60), Benteke (Helenius 66). Unused:- Guzan, Clarke, Herd, Lowton
Rotherham:- Shearer, Skarz, Arnason, Frecklington, Revell, O’Connor, Bradley, Milsom (Tidser 57), Pringle (Brindley 84), Morgan, Agard (Tubbs 84). Unused:- Collin, Hylton, Rowe.