For the first time this season, Aston Villa sent a Saturday afternoon Villa Park crowd home happy as the hosts defeated a horrific Norwich City side 2-0 to pick up just the club's third league win in this campaign.
The Villa Park faithful and Aston Villa fans all over the world could feel good about a home win on Saturday. But now that it's Sunday, the brutal realization that relegation remains probable looms -- and that fear wasn't exactly lessened by Villa's lackluster-but-opportunistic victory over the Canaries.
Don't get me wrong, Villa were the better team on Saturday. But that's not saying much. Norwich were awful, and the visitors still out-played Villa for long stretches of the first half and the final 15 minutes. The result was immense for Villa, but this wasn't some rejuvenated performance that looks like it could lead to a great escape. (Hopefully that game will come next against Liverpool.)
With that said, here are the Aston Villa player ratings, stats and analysis for Saturday's rare triumph, with players rated on a scale of 1 to 10:
GK: Mark Bunn, Rating: 6
The good thing is that Bunn kept another clean sheet and continues to provide confidence to his defenders with his calm demeanor and solid play. The scary thing is that Bunn could've conceded three or four goals on Saturday if Norwich could finish; Bunn's goal lived a blessed life, largely thanks to some great positioning by Villa defenders and some luck.
RB: Micah Richards, Rating: 6
Four clearances, three aerial duals and two tackles. Richards out-muscled Norwich players with ease on several occasions and won almost everything he challenged for. Doesn't provide as much offensive support as he did in his Man City days, but still provides Villa with a reliable and experienced right back option -- and the best option available currently at the club.
CB: Jores Okore, Rating: 7
Cleaned up numerous threats throughout the match. Made 15 clearances with two blocks, including one late off the line. Showed some very nice passing too, including one 50-meter, world-class slide pass to Richards in the first half.
CB: Joleon Lescott, Rating: 8
Scored another crucial goal for Villa, with the benefit of a deflection. Won five aeriel duals, made nine clearances and handled the physical challenge of Mbokani well after the striker had a threatening start. Could Lescott of all people be Villa's Player of the Season at this point?
LB: Aly Cissokho, Rating: 6
Cissokho displayed some great reading of the game but also had moments of mental lapses. Actually had some good crosses though, setting up two chances. While he lacks consistency at the both ends of the pitch, the recalled left back still is Villa's best option until Jordan Amavi comes back next season.
CDM: Idrissa Gana, Rating: 9
So how about this stat-line for a midfielder: Eight interceptions, seven blocks, seven clearances, four tackles, three take-ons, two chances created and 85-percent passing. A wonderful game from Gana, who is on a strong spell of form right now. He wasn't overly noticeable in this game, but the stats don't lie -- Idrissa was awesome.
RCM: Jordan Veretout, Rating: 7
Far less stats than Gana, but while his midfield teammate is doing most of the hard work, Veretout's legs and ability to pick a pass are what usually create chances for this Villa team. His assist to Agbonlahor in the second half was a superb spot and execution, and he created or nearly created several other chances.
LCM: Ashley Westwood, Rating: 5
Another anonymous game for Westwood in this left center midfield role. The only times I noticed him were when he killed Villa attacks by defaulting to his right foot and checking back. Was his usual, tidy passing self besides that.
RW: Leandro Bacuna, Rating: 6
Bacuna isn't exactly doing anything great to help Villa win, but his presence isn't a sore spot for the team. He continues to be one of the most fit players at the club. Needs to do much more though if Villa have any chances of actually staying up.
LW: Carles Gil, Rating: 6
Didn't have his best afternoon against a snappy Norwich side that niggled at Villa's Spanish midfielder. However, a few Gil moments of class, including his cross to Lescott for the first goal, still were able to make a difference.
ST: Gabby Agbonlahor, Rating: 7
I could write about Agbonlahor's career at Aston Villa all day. There are equally as many Good Gabby Memories as Bad Gabby Memories. Fortunately, Saturday's match will go in the Good category as the striker scored an old-school Gabby goal to seal the win, finished the full 90 minutes, actually had a few exciting moments of class and showed commitment to the team's cause.