Analysis: Aston Villa win gives Sunderland a starting point for survival

Fabio Borini
Fabio Borini
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Make no mistake, the Premier League remains grim reading for those of a red and white (or even black and white) persuasion.

Four points adrift of safety, with the likes of Norwich and Bournemouth all continuing to keep their points tally ticking over, shows the mammoth task facing Sam Allardyce over the second half of the season.

Sunderland are surely going to require at least 23 points from the final 18 games - potentially more - to preserve their Premier League existence.

But Sam Allardyce needed a starting point to begin turning the juggernaut around and it HAD to start against Aston Villa. Anything less than victory and Sunderland were making a beeline towards the Championship along with their West Midlands opponents.

It wasn't pretty. It didn't need to be though.

Sunderland fans are well-versed in these horrible, nerve-ridden encounters, where every mis-hit pass or loose touch prompts a chorus of groans.

All that mattered was the result. By hook or crook, Sunderland needed to register maximum points. It was a test of mentality which the Black Cats passed, despite the lowest quality game they have been involved in this season.

However, Allardyce's men will need to be vastly improved when they face another of their fellow strugglers, Swansea City, in 10 days time.

Villa are bottom for a reason and had Sunderland been facing a side with an ounce of quality at either end of the pitch, then they would have been up against it, particularly before Patrick van Aanholt's fortuitous opener when the hosts were utterly wretched.

Gradually though, Sunderland began to get a foothold in the encounter; Lee Cattermole improving markedly in the second half and the John O'Shea and Wes Brown axis rolling back the years to keep Rudy Gestede completely under wraps.

Even when Villa scored what was a stunning equaliser - albeit gifted by Fabio Borini's slack giveaway - Sunderland didn't fold.

If anything, they rose to the challenge - Adam Johnson putting his hand up to shoulder the burden of responsibility and Jermain Defoe making himself a hero.

Defoe's first was a brilliant example of his predatory instincts - albeit Joleon Lescott didn't cover himself in glory by giving the 33-year-old chance to shoot - and demonstrated why the England international has to be in the starting XI.

With Defoe in the side, Sunderland have always got a chance.

After three points against Villa, Sunderland have equally given themselves a chance.