Villa Player Ratings – Villa 2-1 Sunderland – HIGHS: Whelan & Adomah.

Aston Villa 2 - 1 Sunderland - Villa Park - 21st November 2017

Make no mistake, this game will not go down in the history books as a “classic”.

However, there’s a time and place for “classics”, and a damp, blustery evening at Villa Park against Sunderland wasn’t going to be it.

Another goal by in form Albert Adomah & a deflected effort from Josh Onomah sealed the points – lifting Villa to 4th spot.

MATCH SUMMARY

Lifted by the appointment of Chris Coleman, the visitors to their credit tried to play football.

Ultimately, Sunderland got the kind of luck that you get when down at the bottom [to some degree] for both of Villa’s goals.

The first saw Samba appear to make contact with a failed, full-force clearance [cue crowd gasps].  The referee, un-moved, permitted Villa to play on, resulting in a well taken goal by Adomah, fed by the persistent Snodgrass.

The second goal, ultimately the winner, saw Josh Onomah’s effort loop over a helpless Black Cats keeper.

Whilst Sunderland had a lot of the ball, Villa rarely looked troubled by a side low on confidence and which, in all honesty, looked like a team missing 10 players through injury or suspension.

The bizarre thing from a Villa point of view?

The lack of invention and desire to put the game beyond doubt.

Having taken the lead early, the first half was a pedestrian, almost forgettable affair.  At times it had the feel of an end of season game or a training match, such was the lack of cutting edge or desire from either side.

Kienan Davies, so strong and direct of late, cut an isolated figure.

Neil Taylor couldn’t buy a pass to a man in Claret & Blue.

Conor Hourihane struggled to effect proceedings.

Better sides might have taken advantage of Villa’s stand-offish, low gear approach.  Sunderland could only muster this in glimpses and during a brief onslaught at the death.

The second half was barely an improvement on the eyes with both sides committing numerous unforced errors.

At the very least it allowed an unexpected spotlight to fall upon the duties of Glenn Whelan.

Often overlooked, and in some quarters derided for his diligent attention to completing the unfashionable dirty work.

Whelan arguably put in his best display in a Villa shirt and was an impenetrable barrier for Sunderland all night.

Further, the Irishman isn’t afraid of a challenge.  Particularly those where the outcome requires a committed foot in.  On at least two occasions Whelan put in superb tackles from which he emerged battered, alive, but most importantly, the victor.

Cameos from Jedinak & Grealish were positive.  Grealish, whilst certainly not memorable, at least got game time and important match sharpness.  Jedinak immediately showed the kind of composure and range of passing to remind us of what we’d been missing whilst he’s been out injured.

PROGRESS & POINTS

Following a positive win against QPR (2-1) at the weekend, 3 more points are another positive stride forward as Bruce looks to start jockeying Villa for position.

On a night where Bristol City and Sheffield United both lost, with the latter conceding five, Villa now leapfrog into 4th spot.

It is only through winning that we can gradually erode those above us both of any points advantage and their confidence.  It’s for this reason, I’m sure, that many will park any ambition for ‘sexy football’…for now.

Villa head into the weekends home fixture against Ipswich (10th) with tails up – and with the prospect of having put 9 additional points on the board in the space of seven days.

Pull it off – as Bruce did earlier this term – and that’s progress in anyone’s book.

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