Aston Villa vs. Sunderland: Final score 0-0, Black Cats can't find a breakthough

Michael Regan

Some turned down penalty shouts and an open-goal miss meant Aston Villa and Sunderland finished goalless in Birmingham.

Well that was anti-climactic. Aston Villa and Sunderland ground out a 0-0 draw at Villa Park that looked as though it had the potential to break into a good game all the way up until the full time whistle without ever actually doing so. The visitors edged the chances and perhaps the general play, but thanks to an awful miss by Emanuele Giaccherini, they never managed to find a way past Brad Guzan.

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The opening stages of the match were quiet, but eventually the visitors grew in confidence and started to push forward. As Sunderland attacked, that gave Villa space to reply, and the end of the first half was marked by a handful of penalty shouts. The Black Cats wanted one after Ciaran Clark handled John O'Shea's header from point blank range, while the hosts were claiming spot kicks for a Phil Bardsley handball and for what looked like a shove on Gabriel Agbonlahor just before the interval. None of them were given.

Penalties aside, the best chances of the half fell to Sunderland. Craig Gardner had a goal ruled out for offside and Giaccherini somehow managed to miss an open goal with a scooped volley after Bardsley set him up with an excellent knockdown. The Italian nearly made up for it with a cross for compatriot Fabio Borini just after the break, but the striker's header cannoned off the crossbar after beating Guzan and the chance was gone.

Neither team did enough to win in the closing stages. There was some good football on show, but it tended to break down right at the end -- passing moves were killed by a mis-kick or excellent crosses went un-attacked. A draw was the right result. Sunderland were the better side, but one point's not going to help them very much.

Aston Villa starting lineup (4-3-3): Brad Guzan; Antonio Luna, Ciaran Clark, Ron Vlaar, Leandro Bacuna; Fabian Delph, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi (Aleksandar Tonev 71'); Andreas Weimann (Marc Albrighton 71'), Christian Benteke, Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Sunderland starting linupe (4-3-3):
Vito Mannone; Andrea Dossena, West Brown, John O'Shea, Phil Bardsley; Craig Gardner (Jack Colback 76'), Ki Sung-Yueng, Sebastian Larsson; Emanuele Giaccherini, Steven Fletcher, Fabio Borini (Adam Johnson 76').

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