IT was Paul Lambert’s most comfortable day at the office in weeks, as the under-pressure Scot watched his team ease past Sunderland at the Stadium of Light yesterday.
Aston Villa arrived in the North East winless in five and must have expected a more daunting game than they got from the Black Cats, who had gone five games undefeated and were expected to be buzzing with confidence in front of a big New Year’s Day crowd.
In the end though, Sunderland failed to terrorise the visitors, despite dominating possession.
And the Villa boss was left to be observe after his men’s 1-0 victory: “I’m delighted with the win and I thought we deserved it.
“I thought we could have been more comfortable winners – we should at least have had three or four with the chances we had.
“We knew it was always going to be tough coming up to Sunderland because of their position in the table.
“But I think getting a draw against Swansea City in our previous game give us a platform, and then having Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar back for this game was a big help to us.”
Villa have the youngest squad in the Premier League in terms of average age and Lambert was quick to lavish praise on his young guns.
He said: “We’ve got a young side, with Ron Vlaar the most experienced player and he’s only 28 – people forget Gaby Agbonlahor is only 27 because he’s been around such a long time.
“But they are collectively very young and we are trying to develop them to get results.
“So coming up here and beating Sunderland speaks volumes for them.
“I thought Gaby and Christian Benteke were great for us up front – they showed real heart and Christian looked back to his best in his first game back for a while.
“He’s a young player who will be suffering with a little bit lack of confidence because he hasn’t been scoring.
“He’s young, just like the rest.
“But I’ve got no doubt he’ll recapture his best form and he looked pretty impressive against Sunderland.
“A lot of the lads will have taken confidence and encouragement from the result.”
Of course, it might have been different had Emanuele Giaccherini’s “equaliser” been allowed to stand.
But Lambert was not getting dragged into that debate, or talk of the flashpoint between Agbonlahor and Jack Colback which sparked a mass scuffle late in the game.
“It’s football,” he shrugged. “It happens: players gets bad-tempered – it’s only natural because players are extremely competitive and they are just trying to win games.
“As for whether Sunderland’s goal was offside?
“I couldn’t see, but the linesman is best-placed to judge and it’s only his view that counts.”