Aston Villa finally enjoyed that winning feeling again as they got their Sky Bet Championship season up and running with a 3-0 success over Rotherham at Villa Park.
It has been 190 days of hurt for Villa, who suffered a dismal relegation from the Premier League last season, since their last win way back on February 6 when they beat Norwich 2-0.
This season under Roberto Di Matteo had started inauspiciously after two defeats, but they hit the ground running on home soil as Rudy Gestede’s double and a late Jack Grealish strike blew the Millers away.
It was a difficult afternoon for Alan Stubbs’ men on their first league meeting with Villa since 1971 and the former Hibs man is still waiting for his first win in charge.
Charged up by a pre-match introduction for new owner Dr Tony Xia and keen to end their drought, Villa started on the front foot and only a stunning save from Millers goalkeeper Lee Camp, tipping over from Aly Cissokho’s fierce drive, stopped them taking a fifth-minute lead.
But there was no stopping Villa going in front with 20 minutes on the clock when Gestede headed home from Cissokho’s cross after a quick breakaway following a Rotherham mistake.
Villa continued to look the more likely as Ross McCormack tested Camp from distance with an effort which was turned around the post before the killer second goal came in first-half stoppage time.
McCormack slipped Gestede through and the Benin international coolly dinked home in style.
He should have been celebrating his hat-trick seven minutes after the restart but he put his effort from 16 yards wide of the post following good work from Jordan Ayew.
Di Matteo’s men really stretched their legs as they sniffed a rout and they peppered the Millers goal with shots.
Grealish missed a golden chance just after the hour when he shot straight at Camp while Ayew saw a goalbound effort blocked.
Just as it looked as if the hosts had clocked off and were ready to settle for two, Grealish put the icing on the cake with a fine solo goal.
On a surging run he beat several defenders before rounding Camp and slotting home.
It was a sweet moment for the midfielder as he was on the scoresheet for the first time since last September while also being on the field for a league win for the first time since May 2015.
Owner Xia was on his feet fist-pumping and cheerleading the fans from the directors’ box late on as Villa enjoyed the rare taste of victory.
Rotherham boss Alan Stubbs thought they contributed to their own downfall with defensive errors, but the former Hibs boss called for some perspective.
“We’re always disappointed when we lose, I thought up until the first goal we were in the game,” he said.
“Overall we needed to show a little more belief when we had the ball. The first goal was disappointing, it comes from an unforced error and it puts an awful lot of pressure on us.
“I thought the players stuck at it, but it’s a long season. We are not going to get too downhearted.
“It showed us that we are up against a team that has significantly more resources than us. They have just paid a record amount of money for one of their strikers (Ross McCormack), we have to be realistic.
“We are not going to get downbeat. We won’t be the last team to come here and get beat.”