Lee Cattermole’s horrendous first half saw Aston Villa pounce, and the home side couldn’t find an answer as they drop deeper into relegation darkness.
Sunderland held most of the possession as the visitors played on the break, but with much of the ball they couldn’t find the answer. Most Sunderland attacking players had at least one good chance, but nobody put it away.
The home side started very brightly, with Emmanuele Giaccherini, Steven Fletcher, and Ki Sung-Yeung all finding themselves with good chances in the first 10 minutes.
Giaccherini dragged inches wide from up front, Fletcher dragged across from a tight angle, and
Ki Dong-Wong also had himself an opportunity but a heavy touch off his chest forced a tighter angle than he would have liked and it went over.
Sunderland held 70% of the possession in the first half, but a mistake on the ball would prove costly.
Lee Cattermole, all alone with the ball at the back, took a heavy touch and Gabriel Agbonlahor pounced and beat the keeper to put Villa shockingly ahead.
The goal leaped the visitors to life, and they broke with a serious cutting edge. Leandro Bacuna had himself a go after galloping down the wing but dragged wide.
Cattermole nearly gifted Aston Villa a second in the 28th minute, but Leandro Bacuna bailed him out with a quality last-ditch block.
On the other end, Sunderland pressed well at the end of the first half, as Ki came close to scoring on a pair of occasions.
In the second, Sunderland thought they’d gone ahead in the first five minutes but substitute Borini’s goal was ruled out for being a fraction offside. The Italian had come on for the struggling Cattermole at the halftime break.
Villa continued to play on the counter, and it resulted in plenty of Sunderland possession and goal attempts but they couldn’t break through early on.
They nearly had a second on the break though in the 70th minute, as Christian Benteke searched for his first goal since September by beating Valentin Roberge, but a clearance off the line by the head of Phil Bardsley denied him yet again.
A bit of physicality brought the match to a halt as regulation ran out, with Jack Colback retaliating for a foul by Gabriel Agbonlahor with a fierce push. Both received yellows from referee Mike Jones.
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Sunderland had an opportunity to gain ground in the relegation standings, even getting off the bottom of the table, but they fail to do so and remain a point back of West Ham. Thankfully for Gus Poyet, the Hammers also lost and the Black Cats aren’t far out of reach still.
The win for Villa is an enormous one, bringing them to relative safety for now, up to 23 points in 11th position.
Aston Villa – Agbonlahor 15′
Sunderland – Mannone; Celustka, Bardsley, Diakite, Roberge (Johnson 77′); Cattermole (Borini 45′), Ki, Colback, Ji (Altidore 67′), Giaccherini; Fletcher.
Aston Villa – Guzan, Lowton, Vlaar (Albrighton 70′), Baker, Luna, Westwood, Bacuna, Weimann, Delph, Agbonlahor, Benteke.