There’s a reason Sunderland are bottom of the league, they’re terrible. While it took Villa a while to get going, in what started out as a poor game of misplaced passes, hopeless set pieces and little quality, Villa got the job done by half-time.
With Sunderland on the ropes, it was perhaps a shame Villa didn’t really go for the kill, with Bruce happy to play out the last 15 minutes without a recognised striker on the pitch, despite Keinan Davis being on the bench.
This though is a small grumble, as 3-0 was a score you’d certainly have settled for before kick-off.
With all of Villa’s nearest and dearest in the automatic promotion picture winning, it’s over to this weekend to provide any shifts in league table fortunes.
Villa Player Ratings vs Sunderland
Sam Johnstone – 6.5
Johnstone’s first save came on the hour mark, before pulling off his only other save of note 10 minutes later after Hourihane got caught napping on the half-way line. His distribution still needs to be worked on, but a confident display in terms of what he actually had to do.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 6
Elmohamady seemed a bit casual at times and at one stage had an argument with Hourihane, after he sold the Irish midfielder short with a pass. I’d still like to see more of the directness going forward that he showed earlier in the season.
John Terry – 7
Decent performance by the captain, back to clean sheet ways, although statistically he was playing second fiddle to his centre-back partner.
James Chester – 8 MOTM
Good header by Chester to make it 2-0 after he got up well from the corner, which added the cherry on the top of a solid defensive display. He had more than twice the number of clearances than any other Villa player and got a vital blocks and tackles to snuff out any threat that the Black Cats did muster. He was very much the player that built the foundations of the victory.
Neil Taylor – 6.5
Defensively, a steady, no-thrills performance. Hopefully Taylor will get back up to speed and build a partnership with Albert Adomah to give Villa more going forward on the left flank.
Glenn Whelan – 7
Had a solid enough game until he limped off with injury. Was tidy on the ball and did his defensive job well, after a surprise inclusion. Was it a matter of squad rotation by Bruce with the Wolves game in mind?
Robert Snodgrass – 7
Snodgrass was a bit sloppy at times, it has to be said. The odd misplaced pass, poorly timed challenge. But, for example, you can forgive a poor corner delivery, if he can follow it up with a peach of a delivery directly on the head of James Chester to make it 2-0.
It wasn’t a totally dynamic Snodgrass performance, but even when he’s not totally on song, he always seems to contribute.
Albert Adomah – 6.5
A decent enough game back considering he’s been laid off with injury. An assist and a shot that forced a decent enough save, were the highlights of his evening, but it was perhaps most vital to get him back up to speed before the Wolves game.
Conor Hourihane – 7
Hourihane had more touches than any other player and was very constructive with the ball with an impressive pass completion rate of almost 88%. The midfielder has had a few matches recently where he’s drifted out of games (despite being hyped elsewhere), so it was good to see him in the thick of it.
Lewis Grabban – 7
In the right place at the right time to head into an empty net to get Villa on their way, as Grabban made it three in three. He was certainly involved in the game a lot more than Hogan, getting on the ball and linking things up. It will be interesting to see if Bruce goes with one up top against Wolves, whether Grabban will get the nod over Hogan.
Scott Hogan – 6
Hogan should have perhaps done better with his early chance that he air-kicked. The striker was back to his usual touch count, registering 14 touches for the 66 minutes he was on the pitch.
Off the Bench
Jack Grealish (66) – 7
Tidy on the ball, had an effort on target and kept Villa ticking along when he came on with the game pretty much won. Not one pass was misplaced. A vital introduction back into the team, considering he’ll improve our chances against Wolves.
Mile Jedinak (59) – 6.5
Picked up from where Whelan left off and made sure Villa were solid defensively in midfield winning several aerial duels and tackles.
Birkir Bjarnason (75) – 6
Didn’t have a chance to see much of the ball, so his contribution was limited. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s selected by Bruce to provide more legs against Wolves’ more nimble midfield at the weekend.
Team Performance – 7
While it wasn’t the most convincing of performances overall, they really didn’t need to go through the gears to beat a poor Sunderland team. They did enough to produce a convincing scoreline though, which vitally brought up Villa’s goal difference in line with both Cardiff and Fulham.