In a game where Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke was looking for his first goal in six league games and Sunderland boss Gus Poyet was looking for his first goal since his appointment, both teams lacked the composure in front of goal to capitalise on
their chances to take three points.
Possibly inspired by the presence of their most famous fan Prince William, Villa started the livelier as Fabian Delph delivered a cross from the right flank which was met by the head of Gabriel Agbonlahor, only to land wide of the goal thanks to the defensive efforts of Phil Bardsley.
Moments later, Andreas Weimann outmuscled Ki Sung-Yeung to launch a counter attack as Agbonlahor made a supporting run towards the centre of the pitch, meeting a pass on the edge of the box to place a low shot that was saved comfortably by Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
The visitors then responded with an attack of their own, as striker Steven Fletcher took on the Villa back line to put a pass through to Emanuele Gaccherini making a run down the left flank, only to launch a shot into the side netting, much to the delight of the Villa faithful.
In the 29th minute, Karim El Ahmadi provided support for Andreas Weimann who laid off a pass for him to deliver a low cross to Keiran Westwood waiting in the centre of the penalty box, managing to hold off the challenging Fabio Borini to get a pass to Benteke who launched his shot over the bar from 12 yards.
The 23-year-old Belgian striker, who scored a 17 minute hat-trick against the Black Cats in April, struggled to make an impact throughout the duration of the game, and his lack of confidence in front of goal was evident after his misfired shot was ultimately his only effort of the match.
Former Villa player Craig Gardner thought he had broken the deadlock on 41 minutes after Fabio Borini slipped a pass through the centre of the Villa back line, only to be flagged offside by linesman John Flynn as he slotted the ball to the right of Brad Guzan.
Moments later, Sunderland had calls for a penalty refuted after Ciaran Clark appeared to have blocked a shot by Wes Brown with an extended arm, as referee Neil Swarbrick gave the visitors a corner instead, while turning away protests for a penalty.
The best chance of the game would fall to Emanuale Gaccherini minutes before the end of the first half, after Borini played a short corner to Ki Sung-Yeung, picking out Phil Bardsley who heads the ball across goal to find the Italian in loads of space at the far post, only for the former Juventus man to see his effort sail over the open goal from four yards out.
Chances fell sporadically for both teams in the second half, with the visitors coming closest after Gaccherini skipped past Leandro Bacuna to deliver a cross from the left flank, with fellow country Borini’s powerful glancing header bouncing back off the crossbar.
While both teams couldn’t be separated in a game that was dubbed by Paul Lambert after the match as “not a classic”, both will be happy to have shared the spoils in a match where clinical finishing was evidently lacking by both parties.
Gus Poyet will be happy that his side are continuing to progress from the habits left behind from the previous regime led by Paolo Di Canio while the search goes on for the elusive first goal of his reign. Having lost their last five away games, a single point gained is miles apart from previous results on the road.
Paul Lambert’s men continue to struggle at home, with only 11 wins in their last 45 league matches at Villa Park. The emphasis on the home sides team to attack means their counter-attacking style of play is suited more to their games away from home.
They move up to 10th on the ladder, four points behind Tottenham, while Sunderland move off the bottom of the ladder above Crystal Palace.
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