Agbonlahor sinks Sunderland
Gabriel Agbonlahor (Getty Images)
Sunderland -Gabriel Agbonlahor's first Premier League goal of the season fired Aston Villa to a vital 1-0 win over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.
Agbonlahor's three goals this term had all come in the League Cup, but Villa manager Paul Lambert kept faith with the former England forward, preferring him to Darren Bent once again, and was rewarded with his first league strike since November 2011.
After 29 league games without a goal, Agbonlahor picked the perfect time to end his drought.
His winner gave Villa only their second victory in 10 league games, lifting them five points clear of the bottom three and level on points with 16th placed Sunderland, who have won only one of their last 17 league games.
With out-of-favour Bent missing from Lambert's squad at the Stadium of Light, the pressure was on Agbonlahor and his strike partner Christian Benteke to lead Villa to victory.
Sunderland had the ball in the net after just five minutes when Steven Fletcher, the only Black Cats player to have scored a league goal so far this season, lifted the ball over goalkeeper Brad Guzan, but the Scotland striker's effort was ruled out for offside.
Benteke threatened twice in quick succession in the early stages before Agbonlahor had a shot blocked by Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley.
Martin O'Neill's men went close when Adam Johnson pulled the ball back for Lee Cattermole to curl a shot just over.
But it was Villa who took the lead in the 57th minute when Benteke climbed high above Bardsley at the far post to knock down Matt Lowton's right wing cross.
Agbonlahor, latching onto Benteke's header, finally showed his predatory instincts as he pounced ahead of Carlos Cuellar to volley into the roof of the net.
Cattermole came close to snatching a point for Sunderland when he took aim from long range with six minutes left, but Guzan saved at the second attempt to preserve the win.