Steve Bruce approached the game with the bottom of the table Sunderland with caution stating that it wouldn’t be quite the walk in the park everyone was predicting. Although the game wasn’t pretty, it was anything but difficult as they brushed Chris Coleman’s side away without getting out of second gear.
Villa made two changes ahead of the game with Neil Taylor and Albert Adomah replacing Alan Hutton (injured) and Josh Onomah.
Villa came close in the opening 15 minutes despite being far from their best when Scott Hogan threatened by narrowly failing to make a connection to the ball as he swivelled to try and convert a Conor Hourihane chipped through ball on the turn.
The forward then had another chance on the half-hour mark but he could only watch on as he glanced his headed effort onto the roof of the net from a Robert Snodgrass floated cross.
Sunderland’s defence was struggling and Coleman was forced to replace Tyias Browning who picked up and it was then when Villa finally broke the deadlock.
From a Sunderland point of view, it was a very poor goal to concede when Lamine Kone lost possession cheaply to allow Albert Adomah to cross from the left. Both John O’Shea and Billy Jones missed opportunities to head the ball clear and with goalkeeper Jason Steele rooted to his goalline, Lewis Grabban nodded home at the back post.
Grabban was on loan with Sunderland in the first half of the season where he scored 12 goals before informing the club that he wanted to trigger a clause in his loan deal and return to parent club Bournemouth.
Sunderland offered very little threat all game. On one occasion they managed to get behind the Villa defence but Ashley Fletcher wasn’t able to control the ball so it ran out for a goal-kick.
Sam Johnstone was finally forced into a first-half save on the stroke of half-time but it was comfortable from a Billy Jones shot.
There was still time for the away side to double their lead before the referee blew time on the first half.
Snodgrass swung over a corner from the right-hand side and James Chester beat Kone was too easily as he headed home for Villa’s second of the night and his second of the season.
Callum McManaman forced Johnstone into another save early on in the second half but the keeper on loan from Manchester United made easy work of the effort tipping it over the bar.
Villa completed their scoring on 66 minutes when Hogan played Hourihane down the line and the midfielder’s shot crept between Steele and Bryan Oviedo into the near post.
The defeat leaves Sunderland rooted to the foot of the table, four points adrift of safety while Villa continues to pressure Cardiff who also picked up three points last night against Barnsley.
Steve Bruce: “Can we still win the league? I said before that it would take an almighty, calamitous crash for Wolves to blow up, but anything is possible in this league. We’ve given ourselves a chance and that’s important for a club like ours. We’ve got Wolves, Cardiff and Derby at home, so it’s all to play for.”
Chris Coleman: “It’s hard to take when you give away goals like that. They are a good team Aston Villa, they’re not up there for nothing, and they’ll be there or thereabouts. You don’t have to give them goals, they can earn goals themselves. But we gave them goals. How many times have I had to watch us concede a second goal seconds before half-time? It’s a bitter pill to swallow for us.”