Once again, Sunderland went behind and stayed behind as they capitulated in the first half and allowed the game to fizzle out in the second.
Lewis Grabban took on the role of pantomime villain as he netted the opener, with James Chester and an effort from Conor Hourihane following suit.
The result keeps us bottom of the table, and going nowhere fast.
Sunderland: Jason Steele, Donald Love, Bryan Oviedo, John O’Shea, Lamine Kone, Tyias Browning, Lee Cattermole, Ovie Ejaria, Callum McManaman, Aiden McGeady, Ashley Fletcher
Subs: Lee Camp, Billy Jones, Jonny Williams, Kazenga LuaLua, Josh Maja, George Honeyman, Joel Asoro
Aston Villa: Sam Johnstone, Ahmed Elmohamady, James Chester, John Terry, Neil Taylor, Robert Snodgrass, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Albert Adomah, Scott Hogan, Lewis Grabban
Subs: Mark Bunn, Mile Jedinak, Birkir Bjarnason, Henri Lansbury, Josh Onomah, Jack Grealish, Keinan Davis
Chris Coleman named only one change to tonight’s lineup as Donald Love came in for the injured Adam Matthews. Jason Steele retained his place between the sticks ahead of loanee Lee Camp following his impressive display at The Den.
There were a few familiar names in the opposition lineup, but the most profound was undoubtedly Lewis Grabban - who would start against the side that still call him this season’s top scorer.
The match got off to a relatively quiet start. Grabban had the first chance of the game as he brought down a long ball in the box and aimed a volley at the Sunderland goalmouth, but Tyias Browning managed to get his body in the way.
The lads had an injury scare a few minutes later as captain John O’Shea pulled up with what appeared to be a knock to his knee - but he was back on the field of play in a couple of minutes.
For the first half hour Sunderland had played well; they were keeping their shape and, in turn, were keeping Villa out of any dangerous positions in the final third.
But just like the many matches before it, Sunderland’s solidity was very much a transient state.
On thirty-four minutes, the away side took the lead through who else but Lewis Grabban. Albert Adomah’s ball from the left flank wasn’t dealt with as Billy Jones and Jason Steele both floundered in the face of adversity - allowing the ball to bounce in the box and into the path of Grabban who nodded into an empty net.
Then, just before half-time, the visitors’ lead was doubled.
Villa won a corner with virtually the last kick of the opening interval, and defender James Chester glanced in the delivery to routinely compound the home side’s misery.
HT: Sunderland 0-2 Aston Villa (Grabban 34’, Chester 45+3’)
Joel Asoro was introduced following the restart when he made way for John O’Shea - effectively morphing the formation into the more offensively oriented 4-4-2 in order to overturn the two goal deficit.
Sam Johnstone was tested for the first time this evening on sixty-one minutes as Callum McManaman fired on goal from the rebound of a free-kick - the Villa ‘keeper reacting quickly to tip the effort over.
Before too long, Sunderland’s task became an insurmountable one as the visitors got their third. Former academy lad Conor Hourihane raced into the box, fired low and the effort bounced off the underside of Jason Steele and into the back of the net.
Sunderland almost made an instant reply through Asoro; the young Swede seized an opportunity to race forward from one end to the other before firing on goal, but Johnstone produced a good save to maintain his clean sheet.
As the game ticked on, Villa’s only offensives only became more frequent as Jack Grealish, Albert Adomah and Robert Snodgrass all linked up to keep the Sunderland goal under siege.
They wouldn’t score again, but the situation was sorry enough regardless, and certainly justified the boos which resonated around the stadium when the full time whistle was blown.
FT: Sunderland 0-3 Aston Villa (Grabban 34’, Chester 45+3’, Oviedo OG 66’)
Jason Steele - 4/10: Looked like he was stranded at sea for Villa’s opener, and let the third pass straight through him.
Donald Love - 5/10: Grafted throughout, but ultimately he just isn’t very good.
Bryan Oviedo - 6/10: Showed some promise on the overlap with McGeady in the first half, not quite as good in the second.
John O’Shea - 5/10: Didn’t do an awful lot wrong in the half that he played.
Lamine Kone - 6/10: Offered a bit more physicality than O’Shea, as you’d expect.
Tyias Browning - 5/10: Performed his more fundamental defensive duties well, but his distribution was poor.
Lee Cattermole - 5/10: Still looks off the pace, albeit less apparent in today’s game.
Ovie Ejaria - 4/10: Moreso frustrating than technically impressive in the first half, completely absent in the second.
Callum McManaman - 5/10: Never really got going.
Aiden McGeady - 5/10: Swung in a few crosses which no one got on the end of and did one of his ‘McGeady turns’ in our own box. I dunno.
Ashley Fletcher - 3/10: Spooned a clear-cut chance in the first half with the touch of a sentient bouncy castle.
(SUB) Billy Jones - 4/10: At fault for the opener.
(SUB) Joel Asoro - 6/10: Offered the attacking intent we wouldn’t have otherwise had in the latter interval.
(SUB) Josh Maja - 4/10: Wasn’t involved at all.
Man of the Match: If you can think of an outstanding performer, be my guest and pick your own.