The green shoots of recovery are starting to appear at Aston Villa, as a good performance away to Swindon in the Capital One cup was followed up with a much needed victory in the league, this time away to Sunderland on Saturday. Not since January have Aston Villa won away from home in the league, and the three points will be a welcome relief to manager Paul Lambert.
It was not a great game, both sides lacking in confidence and creativity until Gabriel Agbonlahor’s first goal for almost a year in the league. The strike early in the second half was set up by a brilliant header across from Christian Benteke, who once again impressed throughout with his physical presence providing a real nuisance to the Sunderland defence.
Both teams have now achieved just 9 points from their first 10 fixtures this season, and Lambert will be hugely relieved his Villa side came out victorious not only against a previous Villa manager in Martin O’Neill, but also against a man whom he had played under at Celtic not long ago.
Darren Bent was once more absent from the Villa line up, and also from the squad entirely, with a foot injury suffered in training being suggested by Lambert as the reason for his absence. With Agbonlahor following up his goal in midweek with another goal on Saturday against Sunderland, and Benteke scoring 5 goals in 5 games in all competitions for club and country, it will be hard to see the former Sunderland man reinstated into the first team any time soon.
With his high profile and very large transfer fee spent on him, he is a player that Lambert will not be able to leave out of the team easily, as he has found out so far this season. Lambert has been questioned every week as to why he has not been included in the first 11 since dropping the £24 million man last month, but the impressive form of his two other strikers since Bent has been dropped would suggest that Lambert may have made the correct decision.
Villa now face a very tough run, with both Manchester clubs and Arsenal as opponents in their next three matches, but they can take great heart in the victory earned at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Villa have already shown this season that they can compete with the best team in the league with their impressive victory at the Etihad stadium in the League Cup against league champions Manchester City back in September. The victory against Sunderland was a huge result, and Villa must take that confidence gained during this week into their next three games as Lambert will be hoping his side can now begin to start climbing the table.
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