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  • 21 April 2012
  • • 15:00
  • • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Referee: A. Taylor
  • • Attendance: 32557
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Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland: Gardner sent off against former club as McLeish's men fail to inspire again

Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland: Gardner sent off against former club as McLeish's men fail to inspire again

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Martin O'Neill returned to his former employers and received a very frosty welcome as his side came away with a point with the Villans remaining in relegation trouble

Aston Villa could only move a point further away from the relegation zone after a 0-0 draw against Sunderland at Villa Park on Saturday leaves them with a few more nervous weeks left of the Premier League season.

Both sides had their fair share of chances as Nicklas Bendtner and James McClean both went close for the Black Cats, while Andreas Weimann missed a few opportunities for the home team.

Alex McLeish made four changes from the side that lost 4-0 to Manchester United last weekend, with Alan Hutton, Gary Gardner, Barry Bannan and Ciaran Clark being replaced by Chris Herd, Charles N’Zogbia, Marc Albrighton and Carlos Cuellar.

Despite a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to relegation-threatened Wolves last time out, Martin O’Neill made just the one change to his Sunderland team as John O’Shea came into the side for Kieran Richardson.

Not even a minute had passed before the first chance of the match fell to Gabriel Agbonlahor, who closed down Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet following a back-pass and got a block in, but the Belgian keeper made up for his error, saving the follow-up shot from Weimann.

Agbonlahor was causing trouble moments later as he cut inside Michael Turner down the left before shooting towards the bottom far corner, but Matthew Kilgallon stuck a foot out and conceded a corner.

Next to go close for the hosts was N’Zogbia, who cut in from the right, taking on two defenders before shooting low towards the bottom far corner, but again Mignolet was equal to the effort.

Sunderland were managing to spend a considerable amount of time in the Villa half, but they were not creating much at all in the way of chances, with McLeish’s side looking far more dangerous.

After a quiet period in which the only highlight was a hair-raising minute’s applause for Stiliyan Petrov who was recently diagnosed with leukaemia, Weimann put a shot into the side-netting after forcing his way into the penalty area.

It took Sunderland almost 40 minutes to create their first real clear-cut chance, as McClean crossed from the byline on the left, but Bendtner headed over a matter of yards from goal, and that poor miss was to be the last notable action of the first 45 minutes.

Villa started the second half in a similar fashion to the first, as Weimann charged into the area only to smash another effort into the side-netting.

Soon after, Sunderland created their first chance of the second half, and what a chance it was. Sessegnon slipped in behind Phil Bardsley and played in a low cross, but McClean, who had been quiet thus far, put his shot over from seven yards.

Controversy soon struck as Mignolet was penalised for handling the ball outside the area, but it was a close call with the Belgian appearing to release the ball just as he crossed the line, but thankfully for Sunderland nothing came of the free-kick.

As the match progressed, the action got a little more frantic as first a lucky ricochet played the ball into Bendtner’s feet, but Stephen Ireland cleared off the line, then seconds later a tantalising cross from McClean was crashed over by Larsson.

Minutes later Sunderland thought they had taken the lead as Bendtner slid in at the far post to tap home, but the linesman had his flag raised, claiming the Dane was offside, much to the amusement of the Aston Villa fans.

Frustration and anger were obvious from the Villa fans right at the end though as Weimann was through on goal, but elected to cut back and pass to Bannan instead of shooting, with the Scottish midfield hitting his shot comfortably over.

As the match entered injury-time Craig Gardner received a second yellow card for a foul on Marc Albrighton, but with it coming so late on Villa were unable to make the most of it and the two sides played out a goalless draw.

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