Aston Villa cemented their status as a genuine candidate in this season’s promotion race last night, moving up one place in the Championship table and rooting themselves in the playoff positions with a 2-1 win over Sunderland.
There were some scares when the Black Cats, in their first match under new manager Chris Coleman, scored a 72nd-minute goal through Lewis Grabban and it was actually the visitors who controlled more of the ball at Villa Park on Tuesday, finishing up with 58% possession.
But Steve Bruce’s side simply posed greater attacking threat and cutting edge, and no player better encompassed that difference than summer signing Robert Snodgrass, the supplier for both of Villa’s goals.
After just ten minutes, Snodgrass darted down the right wing and switched the ball onto his left foot before dinking a cross, curling inward towards the far post, into the path of fellow wide man Albert Adomah who headed home from close range.
Following the interval, Snodgrass was provider once again, although Villa’s second goal owed considerably more to Josh Onomah’s long-range effort and the heavy deflection off a Sunderland defender than the Scotland international’s rolling pass into the Tottenham loanee’s path.
Somewhere in between, the 30-year-old almost found the net himself; some exciting exchanges on the edge of the box resulted in him galloping through the Sunderland defence but eventually putting his shot wide.
In comparison to Snodgrass’ creative display, Sunderland’s wide men just didn’t deliver in the same way. In fact, Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman – both of whom offer a similar level of Premier League experience to Snodgrass – produced just one shot between them and failed to create a single chance throughout the course of ninety minutes.
That’s very much the difference right now between two clubs who believe they are big enough to still be in the top flight; while Villa’s biggest talents are confident and delivering, Sunderland’s are struggling to find ways to impact games.