Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0

Martin O’Neill suffered an unhappy return to Villa Park, as he was greeted by a cacophony of boos that drowned out much of the courteous applause from the stands, and his team were denied victory when a late Nicklas Bendtner strike was ruled out by a tight offside decision before Craig Gardner was sent off to compound their frustration.

Sunderland manager O’Neill delayed his entry, before kick-off, and that is something he would have regretted, as he was met by an unfavourable reaction. It was a similar mood as he retreated to the tunnel at half-time and full-time.

O’Neill’s body language looked uncomfortable and, early on, his team did too as Villa enjoyed several early chances. The first came from a poor Phil Bardsley back pass that led to panic at the back for Sunderland before Simon Mignolet saved from Andreas Weimann.

The Aston Villa pressure continued as Gabriel Agbonlahor cut inside from the right and had a shot deflected away and Charles N’Zogbia was next to threaten, bursting forward into the 18-yard box then watching Mignolet push away his angled drive.

Villa were involved in the diving controversy that led to Ashley Young being castigated so the last thing they would want is to be labelled hypocrites. But that appeared a valid accusation when Weimann theatrically tumbled to ground, on the edge of the penalty area, when Michael Turner hardly touched him. The Austrian at least partially redeemed himself soon afterwards with a powerful run and shot into the side-netting.

Sunderland finally opened up Villa in the 39th minute – and it was an excellent chance – as James McClean clipped over a cross that Nicklas Bendtner headed over unmarked from close range.

Alex McLeish’s side had wasted too many openings and carried on that habit early in the second half as struggling Weimann skewed wide when one-on-one from Agnonlahor’s long, lofted pass.

As the second half went on, a pattern emerged of Villa piling forward but not finding any cutting edge, while Sunderland kept creating excellent opportunities on the counter-attack.

The first one that the visitors wasted was when typically lively Stephane Sessegnon drifted down the left and crossed for McClean who shot over disappointingly. Another Sessegnon counter-attack led to a shooting chance for Bendtner, whose shot evaded Shay Given but was cleared off the line by Stephen Ireland. And there was more Sunderland frustration when McClean’s dangerous delivery was cleared by Eric Lichaj before Bendtner could shoot.

O’Neill’s team thought they had finally broken through when Sebastian Larsson curled in a cross and Bendtner slid into the six-yard to finish but the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside. It was a tight and brave call.

Villa had a late chance to win it but Barry Bannan curled over from the edge of the 18-yard box. Sunderland’s irritation was then compunded as Craig Gardner recived a second yellow for a late challenge on Bannan.

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