Both managers opted to make changes for this fixture, with Paul Lambert bringing his three substitutes from Monday, Delph, Agbonlahor and Wiemann, into the starting eleven along with left-back Tony Moon. Gus Poyet surprisingly decided to drop Jack Colback and Adam Johnson to the bench with Craig Gardner and Fabio Borini replacing them. He also brought Andrea Dossena in at left-back instead of Ondrej Celustka with his suspension served.
The early section of the first half was fairly unremarkable, with the most noticeable feature probably being Sunderland giving away possession several times with sloppy passes. There were a few noticeable chances though, with Gabriel Agbonlahor heading wide and shooting straight at Vito Mannone in the early minutes. Down the other end Sunderland created a decent chance when Fletcher's run at the Aston Villa defence opened up space for Andrea Dossena, but the left-back shot for the near post when he probably should have gone for the far corner, and his effort hit the side netting.
As the half progressed, it was probably Sunderland with the better chances as the away side grew into the game - though the half remained pretty even until the last few minutes. Dossena played a lovely ball up from deep to an onrushing Gardner, but the midfielder was unable to demonstrate control the likes of which Shane Long used to punish Villa on Monday, and the ball bounced out for a goal kick. Not long after that, a succession of corners for Sunderland eventually saw Ki fizz a cross through the penalty area, but the low delivery missed everyone despite a large number of yellow shirts being in the box.
Seb Larsson, booed by the Villa supporters as a reminder of his time at Birmingham City, had a chance on the half hour mark. Steven Fletcher played a lovely cushioned flick out wide to Emmanuele Giaccherini, who was tripped on the edge of the box by Ron Vlaar as he tried to jink his way around the Dutchman. The Villa captain was booked, and Larsson whipped the resultant free kick wide of the far post leaving Guzan, who had been expecting the ball at the near post, scrambling.
It was only in the final ten minutes of the half that the action really kicked off. Sunderland cut out their earlier sloppiness in possession, and began to apply real pressure on the home side's defence.This culminated with the ball in the back of the Villa net courtesy of Craig Gardner. Unfortunately though the goal was correctly disallowed for offside as the midfielder had been behind the Villa line when the through ball bobbled off a defender and into his path. Just a few moments later came the best chance of the half. Phil Bardsley managed to head the ball across the goal and into the path of Giaccherini at the far post. With Guzan taken out of play by the header and the goal gaping before him all the Italian could conceivably do was score...instead he spooned it over the bar. A really terrible miss by the Italian, who was otherwise bright throughout.
The second half started out like the first had ended, with Sunderland the side on top. Again, both sides' sloppiness in possession was obvious as attacks faltered with players losing the ball over and over. Fabio Borini was heavily involved in two of the more noticeable incidents of the second half. Firstly he end up in a heap on the floor as Fabian Delph smashed a cross straight into where it hurts, and then more positively the Italian was extremely unlucky when his compatriot Giaccherini slung in a wonderful cross that Borini headed powerfully onto the crossbar.
Paul Lambert had made a triple change to great effect in Villa's last game, and he tried a double one now with Marc Albrighton and Aleksandar Tonev coming on for Andreas Wiemann and Karim El Ahmadi. Villa had steadily been growing throughout the half, seeing a lot more of the ball as Sunderland began to drop deeper and deeper and made less forays into the opposition half. However, despite their increased possession the home side never really carved out a scoring opportunity.
Gus Poyet made two changes himself, with Craig Gardner and Fabio Borini departing to make way for Jack Colback and Adam Johnson in a double like-for-like change. With about ten minutes to go, Andrea Dossena ceded possession needlessly with a terribly misdirected pass for Wes Brown in the middle of a spell of comfortable possession. With the ball running dangerously behind the centre-backs, Vito Mannone chose to be proactive and charged out to boot the ball to safety. Not long after this mistake, the left-back found himself hooked off with Ondrej Celustka coming on to replace him. In truth, the Italian had a fairly poor game, certainly defensively. He lost possession a number of times, and a few times came too tight to his man allowing Villa players to get in behind him and into dangerous positions.
The game had been slowly petering out for a long time, and for much of the second half had looked likely to end scoreless. Partly this seemed to be down to an extremely below bar Christian Benteke who was excellently marshaled by John O'Shea throughout. The Belgian's substitution for Libor Kozak, who in his short time on the pitch seemed a bit more of a handful for the Sunderland captain, was the last occurrence of note in the game and it fizzled out to only Sunderland's second draw of the season. Overall, an assured defensive performance from Sunderland but still not setting the world alight in attack. But if Giaccherini hadn't missed an empty goal, and if Borini's header had dipped a shade lower then we could be talking of an excellent away performance so optimistically it's just small margins keeping us from our first away win of the season.
We'll have more match reaction in our Stream later. Find that HERE.