Aston Villa 2 Sunderland 2: M’Vila, Lens secure point for Black Cats, with big second-half improvement

Yann M'Vila joins Jeremain Lens to celebrate the winger's leveller at 2-2 at Villa Park. Picture by Frank Reid
Yann M'Vila joins Jeremain Lens to celebrate the winger's leveller at 2-2 at Villa Park. Picture by Frank Reid
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Maiden Sunderland goals for summer signings Yann M’Vila and Jeremain Lens saw the Black Cats come away with a point at Aston Villa.

Dick Advocaat’s side will head into the international break still without a first Premier League win of the season to their names, yet didn’t realistically deserve any more than a second successive top flight draw on the spin.

That was despite M’Vila giving Sunderland the lead for the first time this season, when he produced a pin-point free-kick to give the Black Cats an early advantage.

But Sunderland’s were in front for just three minutes before Lee Cattermole conceded an utterly needless spot-kick and Scott Sinclair converted the resulting penalty.

Sinclair then doubled his tally before the interval as he took advantage of some slack marking, yet the introduction of new signing Ola Toivonen and Steven Fletcher at half-time breathed some life into Sunderland.

Toivonen set up Lens for the equaliser and although Sunderland spent much of the remainder of the game on the back-foot, they held out.

Younes Kaboul recovered from a knee knock to return to the Sunderland starting XI to take the place of Sebastian Coates, in the only change from the Black Cats’ previous Premier League encounter against Swansea.

New signing Ola Toivonen was included among the substitutes, where there was noticeably no place for exit-bound Emanuele Giaccherini.

Sunderland got off to a dream start when they took the lead for the first time this season in the eighth minute after a cheap free-kick was awarded for a foul on Danny Graham 25 yards out.

M’Vila dispatched the free-kick with pinpoint precision into the top corner, with Brad Guzan left with no chance.

However, Sunderland’s lead lasted just three minutes after Villa drew level from the penalty spot.

A Villa corner was allowed to bounce in the Sunderland area and Lee Cattermole needlessly jumped all over the back of Scott Sinclair in his eagerness to win the ball back.

Referee Robert Madley rightly awarded a penalty and Sinclair sent Costel Pantilimon the wrong way.

Villa looked the slicker side after that equaliser, even if they struggled to create any clear-cut chances, although Sunderland were fortunate in the 36th minute to escape with some awful defending from an inswinging free-kick from the left.

The ball was allowed to ghost through a crowded penalty area, before Carlos Sanchez skied a shot harmlessly over the bar at the back post.

But four minutes before the interval, Villa went ahead through Sinclair’s second.

Idrissa Gueye produced a lovely turn on halfway to easily spin away from Cattermole, before feeding Jordan Amavi down the left, who was given far too much space by Billy Jones.

Amavi’s crossed low into the six-yard box, where Sinclair was able to turn it beyond Costel Pantilimon.

Advocaat made a necessary double change at the interval, with Toivonen and Steven Fletcher replacing Cattermole and Graham, neither of which had covered themselves in glory during the first half.

Fletcher went close within four minutes of the restart when he met Jones’ cross with an excellent glancing header that Guzan needed to tip over the top.

But it was Toivonen who had a hand in Sunderland’s 52nd minute equaliser, when the Swede threaded a beautiful ball down the right for Lens to chase onto.

Lens cut inside and hit a shot which deflected off Micah Richards and beat Guzan.

However, Sunderland had a huge let-off just before the hour, with a virtual carbon-copy of Villa’s second goal.

Sinclair crossed from the left, but from a couple of yards out and with the goal at his mercy, Richards managed to head it off-target and straight into the arms of Pantilimon.

Pantilimon needed to produce a smart save in the 81st minute though when Rudy Gestede knocked the ball into the path of Ashley Westwood, 15 yards out, whose first-time shot was pushed away low to his right by the Sunderland keeper.

Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Clark, Richards, Amavi, Gana, Westwood, Sanchez, Bacuna (Gill 68), Sinclair, Gestede. Subs not used: Bunn, Bennett, Cole, Veretout, Ayew, Kozak. Booked: Clark (38), Gill (79)

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, Kaboul, O’Shea, van Aanholt, Cattermole (Toivonen 46), M’Vila, Rodwell, Lens (Larsson 77), Defoe, Graham (Fletcher 46). Subs not used: Mannone, Coates, Watmore, Gooch. Booked: Pantilimon (90)

Attendance: 35,399