ROTHERHAM United slipped to their first league defeat of the season at the hands of highly-fancied Aston Villa.
Rudy Gestede’s first-half double gave the Millers a mountain to climb at the interval before Jack Grealish added a third for Roberto Di Matteo’s men near the end.
Following their hard fought draw with Wolves for the season opener, the Millers made two changes to their starting line-up for their visit to England’s second city.
Ex-Tottenham centre-half Dominic Ball was thrown immediately into the fray just 24 hours after putting pen-to-paper on a deal with the Millers as Kirk Broadfoot missed out because of a back problem.
With club skipper Lee Frecklington absent due to a calf injury, Richie Smallwood was also recalled in the Millers engine room while new recruit Darnell Fisher was handed a place on the substitutes bench.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and Richard Wood had to be on his toes to snuff out Aly Cissokho’s dangerous cross before the Millers were thankful to Lee Camp for keeping the scores level as he showed great agility to fly across his goal to tip over Cissokho’s rasping drive, which was arrowing towards the top corner of the goal.
From the resultant corner, James Chester headed over from Ross McCormack’s centre before stand-in skipper Stephen Kelly had Rotherham’s first effort of note when he headed over following Jake Forster-Caskey’s corner.
The Millers were having their best spell of the game but it was the home side broke the deadlock on 21 minutes when the visitors lost possession in the Villa half.
The home side countered quickly and they worked the ball to Grealish, whose perfectly-weighted pass released Cissokho down the left flank, and the home full-back clipped a delightful centre which saw Gestede rise highest to steer a downward header past the outstretched hand of Camp into the bottom corner of the Millers goal.
Jordan Ayew was the first to see yellow, presumably for dissent, before Leandro Bacuna made something out of nothing to deliver a tantalising centre which saw Gestede climb highest once again but this time, his glancing header failed to trouble the visitors goal.
Gestede was in the thick of the action and he came within inches of turning Grealish’s fired cross into an unguarded net before Richie Smallwood’s deep free kick was controlled smartly by Danny Ward, at the other end, who attempted an audacious cross-cum-shot which narrowly cleared the home crossbar.
McCormack became the next to incur the wrath of the referee when he prevented Rotherham taking a quick free-kick before Gestede soon joined him in the book for a hefty aerial challenge on Will Vaulks.
McCormack stung the palms of Camp with a long-range effort before Forster-Caskey tried his luck from distance but Pierluigi Gollini was well-positioned to snuff out the danger.
In the last action of the half, Villa took the game by the scruff of the neck when they turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye and McCormack’s clever reverse pass saw Gestede beat the offside trap and the home striker kept his nerve to clip the ball past the advancing Camp to find the heart of the Millers goal.
Half-time: Aston Villa 2 Rotherham United 0
The visitors were on the front foot at the start of the second half and Smallwood’s drilled corner evaded visiting runners before Ward fizzed a long-range effort harmlessly wide of the target.
Minutes later, Gestede came within inches of claiming the matchball when his low effort shaved the Millers upright following Ayew’s inviting slide-rule pass before Mattock became the latest to be cautioned for pulling Ayew’s shirt as he looked to launch a home attack.
Just before the hour mark, Anthony Forde tried his luck from distance but his effort failed to trouble the home goal before Taylor’s daisycutter forced Gollini into a sprawling save, in the Millers next foray of note.
Minutes later, Grealish broke clear to advance menacingly towards the Millers goal but his tame effort was straight down the throat of Camp before Ayew raced away down the right flank before pulling the ball back into the path of Tshibola, who dragged his effort harmlessly wide of the visitors goal.
Mattock was struggling to contain Ayew, who darted from the by line to fire a low drive which forced Camp into a smart save but the Millers full-back put his body on the line to deflect a goalbound effort from the Villa forward, in the home side’s next attack.
Sub Adama cut inside from the flank to drill an effort into the grateful hands of Camp before Forde swung a centre which saw Wood rise highest but his header lacked power as it looped over the home bar.
Sub Fisher became the next to see yellow for chopping down Grealish and the home winger extracted his own form of retribution with seven minutes to go when he raced clear to leave Kelly grounded and he kept his composure to round Camp and despite having a tight angle, he rolled the ball into the Millers net.
Full-time: Aston Villa 3 Rotherham United 0
Aston Villa 3
Rotherham United 0
Teams:- Aston Villa- Gollini, Elphick, Bacuna, Tshibola, Ayew (Adama 74), Chester, Gestede, Westwood, Cissokho, Grealish (Green 90), McCormack (Gardner 85). Unused- Bunn, Richards, Hutton, Amavi.
Rotherham- Camp, Kelly, Mattock (Fisher 71), Vaulks, Wood, Forde, Ward, Forster-Caskey (Yates 59), Taylor, Ball, Smallwood. Unused- Price, Wilson, Allan, Thorpe, Warren.
Referee- K Stroud