Reading 2-4 Aston Villa: John Carew hat-trick sends Villa into FA Cup semi-finals

O'Neill's side off to Wembley again after coming from two down...
Reading 2-4 Aston Villa: Line-up & stats
FA Cup results/standings

A thrilling FA Cup quarter-final at the Madejski Stadium between Reading and Aston Villa finished in favour of the Premier League side after a ruthless second-half comeback from the Villans saw them book their spot in the last four of the competition.

Shane Long opened the scoring for Reading before completing a brace just before half-time to shock Villa. A barnstorming second period saw the Villans come back through goals from Ashley Young and a hat-trick from John Carew.

Looking for their third top flight scalp, Reading opted for a starting line-up featuring the return of Republic of Ireland international striker Shane Long who had missed the last four games through suspension.

Villa started with a familiar line-up but chose to partner John Carew and Emile Heskey up front for only the second time this season.

However, the home side started the game brightly and they fashioned the first chance of the game after winning a corner. The ball fell to Jimmy Kebe in the box who volleyed into the back of the net for what looked like his eighth goal of the season, but the whistle had already blown for a shove on Stephen Warnock.

The Royals had a real appetite from the off but Villa were disciplined at the back and always looked dangerous on the break with their pacey wingers. Their first chance was fashioned after a great run by Ashley Young down the right channel, the winger beating Ryan Bertrand before sliding a pin-point cross right in front of goal but Mathew Mills intercepted.

Reading were full of confidence and after a set of corners they breached the Premier League side's defence for the first time. From the first corner, Tabb volleyed at goal from Sigurdsson's delivery, but the ball hit Dunne and went out just wide for another. However, the second delivery was even better, Mills flicking on to Long who headed in from the back post to give his side the lead.

There was almost an instant response from Villa after they were rewarded a free-kick 30 yards out. With some guile, Young slid a ball to Carew who slotted in from 12 yards out but he was correctly adjudged to be offside.

The visitors tried to keep their heads up despite the deficit but they started to look frustrated as the half ticked by. Young was trying to create things on his own and a dangerous cross-shot by him was palmed away by Federici as the Reading wall of resistance held firm.

Yet Villa were dealt a hammer blow soon after when the Royals found their second through an excellently worked goal. Sigurdsson intercepted a Villa passing move and initiated his side's break. The Icelander turned and produced a
slide-rule through ball which sliced open the back-tracking Villa defence. Kebe ran on to the ball and cut it back across the six-yard box where Long again, finished off the move by passing the ball past a helpless Friedel.

It now looked as though Villa were suffering a hangover from their League Cup final defeat to Manchester United as Reading were good for their two goal lead and O'Neill's side went into the break needing to improve hugely to turn the tie around.

The Villa manager must have said something inspirational at the break as his side came flying out of the traps and struck back instantly. Good delivery into the danger area was missing in the first half but Downing's pass into the box that lead to the goal had quality and Carew flicked it onto Cuellar who in turn prodded the ball onto Young, who hammered the ball into the net from the back-post.

Reading had no time to react when less than five minutes later, their lead was wiped out completely.

Downing breezed down the right, looked up and delivered a delicious left-foot curling cross that slapped off Carew's forehead and bulged into the net to make it two apiece.

Shane Long's brace for Reading must have felt a long time ago as Villa were on top and being afforded more space to wreak havoc. A devastating 12 minutes for Reading was then completed when Villa took the lead in the 57th minute.

Young drew his markers on the left before disguising a pass which got Warncok in behind and the left-back crossed into the centre of the box where Carew finished low and accurately into the right side of goal for his second of the game.

It was all one-way traffic now and Heskey should have made things more comfortable for his side when he was released one-on-one with Federici but  the keeper came out on top and blocked the England international's lifted effort.

After a period in which they appeared completely shell-shocked, the Royals seemed to wake up with a quarter of the match to go and Sigurdsson nearly drew them level but for the head of Ashley Young who cleared his effort off the line.

Aston Villa had to hold on as the game wound to a close but all hopes of any Reading comeback were snuffed out completely when Milner was fouled in the box and a penalty was awarded, which Carew converted from the spot.

It was game over and brave Reading's FA Cup run was finally halted in a thrilling game.