Aston Villa quell Sunderland optimism and show size of Chris Coleman’s task

Stuart James at Villa Park on 21 November 2017

It is a good thing Chris Coleman said he is under no illusions about the size of the task he has taken on at Sunderland. Their ninth manager in six years started with a defeat that highlighted just how much work he has to do to arrest the decline at a club who remain anchored to the foot of the Championship.

In that sense this was much more of a reminder than a reality check for Coleman as Sunderland’s winless run extended to 15 matches on a night when Aston Villa climbed to fourth place courtesy of Albert Adomah’s ninth goal of the season and a rather fortunate second from Joshua Onomah. What Sunderland would do for a slice of luck of their own sometime soon.

Villa, as Steve Bruce admitted, were well short of their best and played poorly for much of the game, yet they still found a way to chisel out the sort of victory that continues to elude Sunderland. Lewis Grabban did manage to pull a goal back later in the second half, and there were positives to take from the way the visitors passed the ball around at times, but there is no escaping the worrying sight of a league table that shows Sunderland four points adrift of safety.

Asked if he saw signs of encouragement, Coleman replied: “Of course. It’s a bit doom and gloom at our place at the minute, bottom of the league, 10 first-team players unavailable and coming to Aston Villa, one of the toughest games we’re going to get, so I’ve got to commend the players.

“The second goal was a deflection and I thought the first goal was a foul on Adam Matthews but that’s how it is. No excuses. Sometimes that’s what happens when you’re down there – bad news after bad news. And if you’re not careful you get into a rut, which probably we are. But it’s only us who are going to get out of it.”

Villa had some bad news of their own to report. Jonathan Kodjia, last season’s top scorer, requires another operation on the same ankle that he had surgery on in May. Kodjia suffered a setback while away with the Ivory Coast and Bruce confirmed the 28-year-old faces “months” on the sidelines after undergoing a series of tests in France and London over the past couple of days. “It’s devastating news for us all,” the Villa manager said. “But we’ll have to deal with it. Let’s see if we can find something in January which can help us.”

Adomah seems to be weighing in with his fair share of goals at the moment. After scoring two against QPR on Saturday, the winger converted an excellent cross from Robert Snodgrass to put Villa ahead after only 10 minutes. Matthews, the Sunderland right-back, may well have been marking Adomah at the far post had he not been clambering to his feet at the other end of the pitch after what Coleman thought was a foul. “I thought it was a foul on Adam, if he doesn’t get out the way, he’s going to get nailed there,” he said.

Although Sunderland continued to look the more accomplished side in possession, they lacked a goal threat and conceded a second early in the second half, when Onomah’s speculative shot took a huge deflection off Tyias Browning to leave Robbin Ruiter stranded.

Coleman made the point that Sunderland “could have easily melted” at that stage but instead they showed some spirit and fight and were rewarded when Grabban hooked home from close range.

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