SUNDERLAND twice came back behind to earn a hard-won point at the Stadium of Light this afternoon with Connor Wickham scored his first goal in red and white colours and Stephane Sessegnon getting his second goal in as many games.
Former Black Cats’ hero Darren Bent was at the centre of attention on his first return to the Stadium of Light since defecting to Villa Park in January.
But the England striker – booed throughout – barely featured.
Instead it was Stiliyan Petrov who produced a moment of magic to put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute.
He wa helped by slack marking but he still deserved every credit for the quality of his finish, curling a left-foot shot into the absolute top left-hand corner of Mignolet’s goal from 25 yards.
Sunderland responded and Wickham grabbed an equaliser in the 38th minute when he took advantage of a clever Sessegnon pass to drive a low shot across Shay Given from the left.
Sunderland were the dominant side throughout but Villa always looked dangerous on the counterattack.
Midway through the second-half Sunderland enjoyed a purple patch but could not finish off a host of chances and were made to pay in the 84th minute when Richard Dunne headed home a Gabriel Agbonlahor free-kick from the left.
But Sunderland got what the least that their play deserved when they equalised just four minutes later – Seb Larsson putting in a good free-kick from the right and Sessegnon heading home from four yards out – Given able to get a fingertip to the ball but unable to prevent it crossing the line.
* Full report and pictures in tonight’s Football Echo