Aston Villa hadn't won away from home since January. They also hadn't scored a second half away goal since that time. Gabby Agbonlahor hadn't scored in the Premier League in almost a year. Well, all three of those depressing streaks were shattered today, as the Villa beat Sunderland 1-0 at the Stadium of Light. Unsurprisingly, former Villa manager Martin O'Neill didn't respond to the away supporters' request for a wave. Why so serious, MON?
The goal, scored in the 58th minute, was superb. Matthew Lowton floated the ball over to Christian Benteke, lurking on the left side of the area. The Belgian executed a perfect header to put the ball right at Gabby's feet. Quick as lightening, Agbonlahor smashed it up toward the roof of the net, far out of the reach of Simon Mignolet.
But this being Villa, the win wasn't going to come easy. Sunderland applied plenty of pressure over the last half hour, but for once, the defense was up to the task -- and if they weren't, it was the midfield clearing the ball, or Brad Guzan rushing out to save. The keeper landed awkwardly after a double save, so let's hope that doesn't come back to haunt the Villa.
There's a lot to be said about this match, and I hope we at 7500 will bring you a few in-depth pieces on the tinkering Paul Lambert's done with the squad. He's found a way to bring in Andreas Weimann, who forced Mignolet into a decent save in both halves. Barry Bannan continues to make a case for starting, although at times his corners left a bit to be desired. Agbonlahor and Benteke were both terrific, which makes Darren Bent's "injury" fairly untraumatic.
The defense, and its many injuries, is still terrifying, particularly with Joe Bennett leaving the match early due to injury, and Eric "liability" Lichaj taking his place. It's rare to see a substitute subbed out, but after Lichaj found himself on a yellow for petulantly kicking away the ball, it was more than deserved. The American misses the next match, but at this point, that might be for the best.
Oh, and Ashley Westwood is quality. If his performance today is an indication of his talent, and not simply an above-average day, Lambert will soon be flush for starting midfielders.