Aston Villa  
  • 28 December 2014
  • Villa Park (35,436)
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As anticipated, a game involving two of this season’s lowest scorers finishes 0-0 and, bar the usual exciting final minute, was a typically dull goalless draw.

With the Hull game still fresh in the memory, and the legs, Poyet opted for only three changes. He reintroduced Wickham following his ban, Bridcutt and Brown for Alvarez, Cattermole and Coates, while Villa were missing Agbonlahor and former Black Cat Kieran Richardson through suspension.

Although criticised so often this season the absence of Connor Wickham was duly noted in the Hull defeat and his return gave the boost to Sunderland’s attack we needed. The early opening stages were deprived of many chances, or quality, but Wickham’s hold up play and driving runs looked to create something. His link up play with Billy Jones proved Sunderland’s best option, with the fullback seeing a teasing cross hacked away from Fletcher for a corner in the opening minute.

It was Aston Villa, however, who would have been happier in the opening ten minutes. With Sunderland sitting deep, Villa were able to carve opportunities, although repeatedly failed to create a clear cut chance, much like their opponents.

Their two best chances came from Christian Benteke, who fired over after a long period of possession from the hosts, and a teasing Alan Hutton cross. Again after a slow build up, the through ball behind Wickham found the former Sunderland loanee, whose sliding cross evaded Brown and was control well by Andreas Weimann but he was left nowhere to go but straight into John O’Shea.

Liam Bridcutt’s game, which had started well after replacing Lee Cattermole, ended prematurely after receiving Benteke’s knees into his jaw. Despite returning to the field the former Brighton man was forced off about 45 seconds later. Bridcutt wasn’t the only casualty in this physical game, Seb Larsson was caught whilst tackling, although the Swede hobbled on until the second half.

Connor Wickham’s good link up play was again shown as he curled a cross-shot in between the post and Fletcher, while, at the other end, Costel Pantilimon was brilliantly commanding his 18-yard area, collecting almost everything Villa threw at him.

N’Zogbia and Wickham found time to fire shots straight at their opposition ‘keepers before the first half came to an end. Sunderland had ended the half well and the return of Lee Cattermole, who made numerous fantastic tackles as Villa broke, had given the side a clear boost.

While Sunderland looked the better side going into the break Villa responded immediately after the restart, with Weimann rolling wide after Sunderland sloppily conceded possession. Their good start lasted just three minutes though as Fabien Delph was shown a straight red card for a poor tackle on Jordi Gomez. With the midfielder out wide halfway into Villa’s half, Delph caught him on the ankle, late, high and with his studs up, which left everyone bemused at Villa’s bemusement.

Shortly after, Giaccherini was introduced into the action, finally replacing Larsson, and Sunderland began to dominate. They also became incredibly wasteful. Giaccherini’s break forward saw him dribble into trouble, despite Connor Wickham racing forward in support out wide, while Wickham again failed to test Guzan shortly after.

They were unlucky too, though, with Billy Jones lashing across the face of goal, only for the fingertips of Guzan to knock out it out of Wickham’s path. Poyet must also be scratching his head over how we failed to score in the 67th minute, after some good possession, resulting in Lee Cattermole firing a shot goalwards, the deflection was put back into the area by Johnson, only for Wickham’s backheel from three yards to be blocked and cleared.

After that, it was end to end in a tense final twenty. The introduction of nineteen-year-old Jack Grealish changed things for Villa with the young Englishman causing Sunderland problems going forward. His pace saw Villa break after robbing Gomez of possession cheaply in the middle, with the former Wigan man then slicing over his own crossbar to clear. The resulting corner saw Ron Vlaar flick the ball onto Wes Brown’s shoulder and towards his own goal which Pantilimon brilliantly turned wide.

After more end-to-end play, the intensity really increased, Jordi Gomez sent an effort crashing off the post, with Guzan well beaten, only for Villa to break quickly as Bakuna’s effort was saved well by Pantilimon. The Romanian was keeping Sunderland in it and just done enough to put off Benteke for the last action of the game, as the Belgian found the side netting.

All in all, it’s two points dropped by Sunderland yet again. The introduction of Grealish masked the fact Sunderland had the extra man, although neither side really deserved the three points given their brief spells of dominance.
Brad Guzan
Ron Vlaar
Card (44)
Ciaran Clark
Jores Okore (61)
Alan Hutton
Aly Cissokho
Fabian Delph
Card (49)
Tom Cleverley
Jack Grealish (68)
Carlos Sanchez
Charles N'Zogbia
Leandro Bacuna (57)
Andreas Weimann
Christian Benteke

Shay Given
Callum Robinson
Matthew Lowton
Chris Herd
Jores Okore
Ciaran Clark (61)
Leandro Bacuna
Charles N'Zogbia (57)
Jack Grealish
Tom Cleverley (68)
Costel Pantilimon
John O'Shea
Wes Brown
Card (89)
Santiago Vergini
Will Buckley (78) Will Buckley (78)
Billy Jones
Liam Bridcutt
Sebastian Larsson
Emanuele Giaccherini (57)
Jordi Gomez
Adam Johnson
Card (73)
Connor Wickham
Steven Fletcher

Vito Mannone
Sebastian Coates
Lee Cattermole
Card (56)
Emanuele Giaccherini
Card (90)
Sebastian Larsson (57)
Will Buckley
Santiago Vergini (78) Santiago Vergini (78)
Ricky Alvarez
Jozy Altidore
Shots (on target)
Shots (off target)
Yellow Cards
Red Cards
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