Chris Coleman’s rescue mission to keep Sunderland in English football’s second-tier Championship got off to a losing start as the Black Cats were beaten 2-1 at Aston Villa on Tuesday.
Sunderland’s eighth league defeat of the season left the northeast side firmly rooted to the foot of the table and emphasised the scale of the task confronting new manager Coleman, who recently resigned as Wales boss after failing to guide his country to the 2018 World Cup.
Albert Adomah and Joshua Onomah gave Villa a 2-0 lead before Lewis Grabban’s 10th goal of the campaign gave Sunderland hope they could salvage a draw.
But instead the former Premier League club suffered yet another loss, while fellow fallen giants Villa moved up to fourth place in the table.
“It’s a bit doom and gloom at our place at the moment, bottom and with 10 first-team players unavailable,” said Coleman. “No excuses, we’re bottom of the league and sometimes that happens, you have bad news after bad news.
“It’s only us who are going to get out of it, by hook or by crook. Overall, they had a go and at 2-0 down they could have melted and they never did.”
He added: “In these moments this is where team spirit comes from. It’s only us who can fight the fight, no one is going to come and help us.”
Elsewhere, Sheffield United missed out on the chance to go top of the table after losing 5-4 at home to Fulham in an extraordinary nine-goal thriller at Bramall Lane.
Youngster Ryan Sessegnon, 17, scored a hat-trick for Fulham with Leon Clarke grabbing three goals for the Blades.
Sessegnon’s treble and two goals from Sheyi Ojo seemed to have ensured London club Fulham would be leaving Yorkshire with all three points after going 5-2 up.
But Samir Carruthers scored and Clarke then completed his hat-trick to reduce Fulham’s lead to just one goal. But the Cottagers held on for their first win since the end of September.
Sheffield United’s defeat allowed Cardiff City to leapfrog them into second place behind leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers after a late Callum Paterson strike gave the Welsh club a 1-0 win at Barnsley.
Derby County moved up to sixth place after Tom Lawrence and Matej Vydra both scored in a 2-0 win over Queens Park Rangers.
Nottingham Forest were left just two points behind bitter East Midlands rivals Forest after Daryl Murphy scored the only goal in a 1-0 win at home to Ipswich.
At the other end of the table, second-bottom Bolton Wanderers were denied what would have been a valuable win as visitors Reading scored twice inside the final 15 minutes to earn a 2-2 draw.
First-half headed goals from Reece Burke and Darren Pratley put Bolton on course for just a third Championship win of the season.
In Tuesday’s other matches, Burton Albion drew 1-1 with Brentford while Millwall and Hull City played out a goalless draw in south London.-Agence France-Presse