Sunderland 0 Aston Villa 1

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Agbonlahor wins it at the SoL.

The effort and application certainly weren't lacking, but Sunderland couldn't translate their industry into goals as they suffered a first home league defeat of the season at the hands of Aston Villa.

Gabriel Agbonlahor's close-range strike midway through the second half proved enough for Villa, who secured their first win against Sunderland in six games.

The Black Cats hammered away but just couldn't break through a stubborn visiting defence who soaked up pressure before launching counter-attacking raids, one of which led to Agbonlahor's goal when he turned home Christian Benteke's knock-down.

Home captain Lee Cattermole led from the front, turning in one of his best displays in a Sunderland shirt, but his side just couldn't get the break they needed.

Martin O'Neill's side flew out of the blocks at the Stadium of Light, having a goal ruled out inside the first five minutes.

Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon combined to free Steven Fletcher, who clipped the ball beyond Brad Guzan only to be denied by an offside flag.

It was, however, the correct decision with Fletcher narrowly beyond the last defender when the ball was played.

But Villa regained their composure and began knocking the ball around nicely, with Benteke heading over before Agbonlahor saw a shot deflected off-target.

Sunderland were looking for a spark and they almost found it through captain Cattermole on the half-hour.

The midfielder, who has never scored for the Black Cats, was inches away from breaking his duck with a shot from 18 yards which whistled just over following excellent approach play from Sessegnon and Johnson.

Then Larsson broke well down the left and worked the angle for a shot, but could only curl his effort wide of Guzan's far post.

The early part of the second half represented Sunderland's best spell on the game, but their dominance was broken by an unlikely opener for the visitors against the run of play.

Matt Lowton's cross from the right was nodded down by Benteke at the back post and swept home first time by Agbonlahor, who broke in front of his marker to convert from six yards out.

Sunderland perhaps could have had an opportunity to equalise from the penalty spot when Benteke appeared to handle inside the box, but the referee waved away the home side's cries for a spot-kick.

O'Neill introduced James McClean and Louis Saha off the bench in an attempt to force the issue and produce an equaliser.

And the latter came agonisingly close to a breakthrough with 17 minutes remaining, rising above a pack of players and meeting Larsson's free-kick cleanly only to head inches over Guzan's crossbar.

The hosts were forced to take risks at the back as they chased the game, leaving them open to cutting counter-attacks.

They were grateful to Mignolet for an excellent block with 13 minutes to play – the Belgian advancing to deny Andreas Weimann from close range after the striker was played in by Stephen Ireland.

Sunderland laid siege to the Villa goal late on with Cattermole seeing a deflected shot parried by Guzan, who dropped gratefully on the loose ball before Fletcher could stab the rebound home.

Cross after cross flashed into the visitors' penalty area, with Fraizer Campbell also coming close with a late near-post header.

But a late equaliser just wouldn't come for the hosts, who gave it everything but couldn't break through.

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Team Sheet

Mignolet
22
Cuéllar
24
Yellow Bardsley (Campbell)
2
O'Shea
16
Cattermole
6
Sessegnon (Saha)
28
Colback
14
Larsson
7
Johnson
21
Gardner (McClean)
8
Yellow Fletcher
26
Guzan
22
Clark Yellow
6
Bennett (Lichaj)
27
Lowton
34
Vlaar
4
Westwood
15
Bannan
25
Ireland
7
Weimann (Holman)
26
Agbonlahor
11
Benteke Yellow
20

Substitutes

Vaughan
15
Kilgallon
12
Westwood
20
Rose
3
McClean
23
Campbell
9
Saha
25
Holman
14
Delph
16
Given
1
Bowery
21
Stevens
29
Albrighton
12
Lichaj (Stevens) Yellow
30