Sunderland 1 Aston Villa 2

Last updated : 17 January 2009 By Footymad Previewer
Aston Villa kept alive their chase for a Champions League spot as two controversial goals secured victory at the Stadium of Light.

The Villans, however, won't mind how their smash and grab raid was achieved especially as they finished the game with only ten men.

The defeat was a bitter blow for Ricky Sbragia's Sunderland and there is no doubt the manner of the two goals will have been a sore point for the Wearsiders.

The hosts had started the brighter of the two sides, going on the attack from the kick-off, a move that almost paid off as early as the second minute.

The Black Cats won a corner out on the left and well the ball came it appeared to hit Stiliyan Petrov on the arm. However referee Mike Dean waved away appeals for a penalty.

It wasn't the last time Dean was to have a say in the proceedings, the man in the middle twice giving Villa the benefit of the doubt in front of goal.

The first came on 59 minutes as Ashley Young broke down the right and crossed into the Sunderland six-yard box.

The onrushing James Milner was already grounded and met the ball with his arm to steer it into the net. Despite protests, Dean allowed the goal to stand.

It offered Villa a way back into a match, which despite their possession and quick attacks, looked like it may evade them.

Sunderland were quite clearly the better side in the first half and deservedly went in front after 11 minutes. A foul by Curtis Davies on Kenwyne Jones saw the Black Cats awarded a free-kick some 40 yards out from goal in a central position.

Winger Carlos Edwards clipped the ball towards the box and Danny Collins rose unmarked to nod home past Brad Friedel.

The hosts almost doubled their lead on 26 minutes as El-Hadji Diouf played in Dean Whitehead. The Sunderland skipper's low shot bringing a good save out of Friedel.

After that Villa started to press more and the Wearsiders invited unnecessary pressure on themselves as they sat far too deep.

That led to a sustained spell of possession for Villa, but for all their time on the ball the visitors never tested home keeper Marton Fulop in the opening half.

Villa did, however, go close on 41 minutes Ashley Young curling a free-kick just wide of Fulop's right-hand post.

Sunderland again started brightly after the break and seemed to be coping with the Villa threat before Milner's leveller.

Villa stepped things up after that, but were rocked by Ashley Young's straight red on 71 minutes, the winger deservedly receiving his marching orders for a two-footed lunge on Whitehead.

However a wasted chance by Djibril Cisse, the Sunderland striker heading straight at Friedel, proved the catalyst for Villa's winner.

The visitors broke quickly and caught Sunderland substitute Paul McShane napping.

The Irishman was the wrong side of Gabriel Agbonlahor and caught the Villa forward in the face with a high foot as he raced in on goal.

There was no doubting the foul, but there were questions over whether or not Agbonlahor was offside and whether the foul was outside the box.

Referee Mr Dean had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, despite being some 30 yards away when the incident occurred.

Up stepped Villa skipper Gareth Barry to send Fulop the wrong way and seal a 2-1 win for his side.

The hosts tried to get back into the game, but their efforts came to nothing as Martin O'Neill's side held firm.