Thursday media watch [02.01.14]: Sunderland match reports
Daily Express: Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert heaped praise on in-form striker Gabby Agbonlahor after he scored the 15th minute winner at Sunderland. He was a constant thorn in the side of the home defence as his third goal in six games helped Villa to their fourth away win of the season and sent them up to 11th in the table. Lambert, who welcomed back last season's top scorer Christian Benteke and defender Ron Vlaar after injury, said: "It was a massive goal again. He has got real speed and when he's in that sort of form his contribution is excellent.I thought Benteke, for his first game back, was definitely like his old self aswell. Overall there were big performances in there."
Birmingham Mail: It was a gift of the Gab as a late Christmas present gave Gabby Agbonlahor a New Year's Day winner during a vital Villa victory over the bottom club at the Stadium of Light. Agbonlahor scored the only goal in this fixture for the second season running as the claret and blues rang in 2014 with a much-needed three points on Wearside. Lee Cattermole, the Black Cats captain, was luckless and hapless when his shocking mistake led to the goal on 15 minutes and he was unsurprisingly hauled off at half-time. Agbonlahor, meanwhile, continued to terrorise Gus Poyet's strugglers all game after notching his third goal of the season following strikes against Southampton and Swansea.
Daily Mirror: Guy Poyet's Sunderland seem determined to hasten their own demise. To the six own goals and five red cards suffered this season, add a gift-wrapped winner here, handed on a plate to Gabby Agbonlahor by Lee Cattermole. This was supposed to be the day the Black Cats claimed a win to climb off the bottom to keep their hopes alive. Instead their dwindling chances of surviving in the top-flight after only still flickering because of the continued inadequacies of their bottom-four rivals. Poyet's men are four points adrift of fourth-bottom, but were desperate in the last half-hour with gaping holes in their defence which should have seen Villa rack up four or five goals. Paul Lambert's side were excellent on the counter-attack, with Agbonlahor leading the charge and deserved their first win in six games.
Daily Star: A new year but the same old suicidal tendencies for sorry Sunderland. The Premier League's bottom club are finding fresh ways of shooting themselves in the foot. During the first half of the season, they scored six own goals and had five players sent off. It is doubtful they have conceded a worse goal than the one which condemned them to a seventh home defeat and left them four points adrift of safety. Lee Cattermole horribly miscontrolled Valentin Roberge's square pass and Gabby Agbonlahor was left with the simple task of rounding keeper Vito Mannone to earn Villa their first win in six games. Agbonlahor also scored the winner at the Stadium of Light last season. And with Sunderland pushing forward, Villa had numerous chances to stretch their lead.
Guardian: Lee Cattermole likes to portray himself as Sunderland's "Mr Indispensable" but, not for the first time, he self-destructed on New Year's Day. The midfielder's alarming loss of concentration and concession of possession precipitated Gabriel Agbonlahor's winner, crushing already cautious Wearside optimism and ensuring Gus Poyet's side remain stuck to the bottom of the table. Cattermole's mistake presented Agbonlahor with the goal that enables a youthful Aston Villa and their under-scrutiny manager Paul Lambert to approach 2014 with a modicum of renewed hope. "We've got a platform to build on," said Lambert. His opposite number proved a little more downbeat. "It was not a good day," acknowledged Poyet. "I'm disappointed." The freezing New Year rain drove into the dug-outs in such torrential fashion that he initially sheltered in the tunnel but such inclement weather quickly proved the least of his problems. When Cattermole miscontrolled a routine ball on the edge of his area, he was quickly dispossessed by Agbonlahor, who rounded Vito Mannone before shooting home left footed.
The Sun: New Year but same old Sunderland. Gus Poyet's side have perfected the art of shooting themselves in the foot. A total of six own goals and five red cards have characterised their campaign. And it was a Lee Cattermole cock-up that derailed them against Aston Villa. There appeared to be no danger at all when Valentin Roberge played a routine pass across to him 25 yards from goal. But Cattermole completely missed the ball and Gabby Agbonlahor was straight on him to gather, round Vito Mannone and tap home after 15 minutes. In the end, Agbonlahor's goal was enough. The Villa striker has netted just three times this season but this was his second in four days. This result was huge for Paul Lambert's side following five games without a win.
Daily Telegraph: Poyet can only do so much on the training ground and he cannot legislate for the sort of mistake that gifted Villa the lead. Lee Cattermole should have collected a pass from Valentin Roberge with ease, but misjudged the greasy surface and the ball rolled past him. Gabriel Agbonlahor accepted the gift and rounded Vito Mannone with a shimmy before rolling the ball into the empty net. You will find few who try as hard as Cattermole and the mistake tortured him. Sunderland's captain was taken off at half-time, more out of kindness than a desire to punish. "After the mistake it was very difficult for Lee," said Poyet. "It was difficult for the players to maintain a good relationship with the fans so I dropped Lee. "I thought taking him off was the best thing for the team, it wasn't anything to do with the way he was playing." Until they scored, Villa had struggled. Sunderland poured forward and had two good chances to take the lead, the first when Steven Fletcher was played in by Emanuele Giaccherini, the second when the Italian's cross fell to Ji Dong-won and the South Korean fired wide. Sunderland continued to create chances, Jack Colback taking too long to get a shot away, allowing Villa's defence to squeeze the space and his shot deflected wide. Agbonlahor's goal, though, gave Villa the chance to play to their strengths on the counter-attack, Leandro Bacuna exposing the lack of pace in the Sunderland defence with a run and shot that flew narrowly wide. They were even better at exploiting Sunderland's desperation in the second-half, frustrating them with the discipline and bravery of their defence and exposing them with their speed going forward. Bacuna was kept out by a brilliant save from Mannone before Christian Benteke was denied a goal when Phil Bardsley cleared off the line.
Independent: Sunderland were unable to dig themselves out of the relegation places after Gabriel Agbonlahor gave Aston Villa a 1-0 victory here on Wednesday. Agbonlahor, who also scored the only goal on Wearside last season, capitalised on Lee Cattermole's error to open the scoring after a quarter of an hour and secure his side's first league win in six games.
Daily Mail: While there was abject misery for Gus Poyet, Paul Lambert was rewarded for his brave selections and the endeavour of Christian Benteke, Fabian Delph and Gabby Agbonlahor. "Gabby got us a massive goal again," said Lambert. "He's got speed like that and when he's in that sort of form, he is excellent. And Benteke in his first game back was his old self."
Birmingham Mail: Ron Vlaar will be rested for Villa's FA Cup curtain-raiser against Sheff Utd in a bid to get him fit again for their Premier League "priority" against Arsenal. Vlaar returned to play his part in the claret and blues 1-0 victory at Sunderland after missing the five-game winless run with a calf injury. But the captain hobbled off after 70 minutes at the Stadium of Light after suffering a reoccurrence of the problem, which also plagued him midway through last season.
Birmingham Mail: Manager Paul Lambert hailed his 'A-Team' after the returns of Ron Vlaar and Christian Benteke allowed arguably his strongest line-up to secure a victory at Sunderland. The availability of Vlaar and Benteke after respective calf and knee injuries gave Lambert the rare luxury of fielding his first choices in almost every position. It helped Villa clinch a win after four defeats and a draw in a period when they also had to contend with having Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph suspended.
Clubcall: Paul Lambert has confirmed that he would like to bring new faces into his Aston Villa squad but he would not reveal any names. The Villa boss watched Gabby Agbonlahor move his side six points clear of the Premier League relegation places with the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win at bottom club Sunderland on New Year's Day. And, while he seems relatively happy with the players already at his disposal, Lambert hinted that he might look to add some experience to his squad in this January transfer window having largely focused on youthful acquisitions in his first 18 months at the club.
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BBC Sport: Cardiff are set to name Molde coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as their new manager. Solskjaer, 40, arrived at Emirates Stadium to hold final talks with Bluebirds owner Vincent Tan and chairman Mehmet Dalman before the club's New Year's Day loss to Arsenal.
Sky Sports: Manager Jose Mourinho has told Juan Mata and Michael Essien that his door is open if they want to leave Chelsea. Mata reacted furiously to being substituted in Chelsea's 3-0 win over Southampton on New Year's Day.
BBC Sport: Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup is confident his side can avoid being dragged into the battle to avoid relegation from the Premier League. They have only picked up three points from their last six games and lie 13th.
*The extracts on this page are taken from various newspapers and media outlets. They do not necessarily reflect the views of Aston Villa.