Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland

by James Hailstone

Black Cats denied by ten-man Villa.

Sunderland ended 2014 with a point in the Midlands after their match against Aston Villa concluded goalless.

Gus Poyet made three changes to the side that lost 3-1 against Hull on Boxing Day, with Wes Brown, Liam Bridcutt and Connor Wickham replacing Sebastian Coates, Lee Cattermole and Ricky Alvarez.

It was an even opening period with neither side able to establish a foothold in the game, with Charles N’Zogbia’s shot, which was caught by Costel Pantilimon, being the only chance of note for the hosts.

At the other end of the pitch Steven Fletcher and Connor Wickham combined, resulting in Brad Guzan catching the former Ispwich man’s shot.

The game livened up only three minutes into the second half when Fabian Delph was shown a red card for a reckless tackle on Jordi Gomez.

The Black Cats, boosted by the sold out away section, took a hold of the game and almost scored the opener if Ron Vlaar hadn’t deflected Wickham’s effort wide.

The introduction of Jack Grealish for the home side gave Villa more pace on the break. The youngster, however, could only curl his effort wide.

Wes Brown then almost put the ball into his own net with a header that Pantilimon had to react quickly to in order to keep out.

Emanuele Giaccherini came on for the visitors who easily could have won it at the end when Gomez made himself space on the edge of the box and flashed his effort across goal, only to be denied by the post.

Leandro Bacuna then had a late effort for the home side saved as the match ended goalless.

Sunderland’s 11th draw of the season means that the Black Cats move onto 20 points at the half-way mark of the campaign ahead of the visit to Manchester City on New Year’s Day.

Aston Villa team: Brad Guzan, Alan Hutton, Aly Cissokho, Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark (Jores Okore), Carlos Sanchez, Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley (Jack Grealish), Charles N’Zogbia (Leandro Bacuna), Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke.

Sunderland team: Costel Pantilimon, Santiago Vergini (Will Buckley), Billy Jones, John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Liam Bridcutt (Lee Cattermole), Seb Larsson (Emanuele Giaccherini), Jordi Gomez, Adam Johnson, Conor Wickham and Steven Fletcher.