Lions Beat Black Cats
Attendance: 38 706
3 points, who is going to argue with that? Especially on such a bitterly cold afternoon.... Well, Chimbonda had long sleeves and gloves on, so I assume it was cold?!? And Sunderland are no pushover either especially with Steed Malbranque bombing forward. It is funny, despite Wednesday (and I still say Martin O'Neill put out a team good enough to win that game despite the changes) today even when we went one down, I didn't think we looked like we would lose.
Villa did get off to a slow start and allowed Sunderland to come forward - or should I say Sunderland started quicker out of the traps and Villa soaked up the pressure? I guess you can look at it both ways! I did feel when Cisse put the ball in the back of our net on 9 minutes we had just started to take control of the game but a lovely quick move, helped by Malbranque if memory serves me right undid our defence superbly and you had to hand it to the Black Cats, it was just a well taken goal.
At that point we had two choices and these days Villa take the right choice, they don't let their heads drop and they do keep going forward, sometimes a bit too quickly with ill timed long balls - Nicky Shorey today, who I think will prove to be a good buy and hasn't been as bad this season so far as some seem to say, was the main culprit of that and twice passed the ball out of play... not good, not in the Premiership, the level is too high for that.
Villa took control of the ball well although again, I do wish they would concentrate on playing the ball on the ground because when they do they really can zip the ball about beautifully. 17 minutes in Ashley Young took a sublime free kick which was basically unstoppable. He really is a cheeky wee scamp and was tricky for the Sunderland players to deal with all game long. 1-1 and although the game wasn't exactly rocking, it was entertaining enough and helped by a good atmosphere from both the Holte End AND the travelling Sunderland fans who are ALWAYS top quality, hats off (if I wore a hat) to them.
Come the half hour mark John Carew slotted home a fierce pass from the resurgent Stiliyan Petrov via a back heel and is starting to look like he is scoring for fun. He also won pretty much every header and helped put major pressure on the Sunderland defence today, this is the JC who could become a tip top class striker, he used his weight and menace well.
There aren't many you could criticise really, Shorey was slightly out of whack, Barry wasn't in top form, maybe Gabby could have done slightly more when he got the ball and went on runs but they are only minor points to another good 3 points, the third in a row. There was the time when Villa went 1 down, heads dropped and games were conceded, now we get goals - at both ends - and some entertainment, and this is a Villa side who are still nowhere near their maximum potential. Hopefully they will stop dropping so deep soon as that does bring the opposition on and causes our nerves to fray, but then again, with the speed we have in the team, we do at least have the capability of taking advantage on the break.
Brad Friedel 7
Nicky Shorey 5
Martin Laursen 8
Curtis Davies 8
Luke Young 7
Nigel Hokey-Cokey 7
Stiliyan Petrov 8.5
Gareth Barry 6
Ashley Young 7
Gabby Agbonlahor 6
John Carew 7.5
James Milner 7 (on for Shorey 70 mins)
Carlos Cuellar (on for Carew 90 mins)