SUNDERLAND suffered a second successive Under-21 Premier League defeat last night after succumbing 2-1 at Aston Villa.
But Kevin Ball’s side were left cursing their fortune after Villa stopper Craig Hill denied Sunderland a second half equaliser with a string of stunning saves.
A youthful Sunderland outfit, beaten 1-0 by Southampton last week, faced an early onslaught from the hosts with stopper Ben Wilson - back from a loan spell at League Two Chesterfield - pushing Michael Drennan’s effort around the post and then saving Marc Albrighton’s shot.
But Wilson couldn’t prevent Albrighton - making his return from injury - handing Villa the lead in the eighth minute with a sweetly-struck half volley.
Villa, who lost 2-0 at the Academy of Light earlier this month, then doubled their advantage five minutes later when Graham Burke fired home a left-foot shot via a deflection off Sunderland defender Connor Oliver.
Sunderland regrouped, with Jordan Laidler’s volley well-saved by Hill before the stopper blocked Adam Mitchell’s angled drive.
The Black Cats finally halved the deficit on the stroke of half-time when Blair Adams surged down the left and crossed for Alex Gorrin to convert from six yards out.
Wilson denied Burke early in the second half before Sunderland began to dominate proceedings, without managing to find a breakthrough.
Hill acrobatically pushed Adam Reed’s shot over the top and then tipped substitute Mikael Mandron’s effort onto the bar in the closing stages.
ASTON VILLA: Hill, Barton, Williams (Bateman 69), Stieber, Devine (Lyden 83), Donacien, Albrighton, Carruthers, Drennan, Burke, Graham. Subs not used: Barrett, Melvin, Ward.
SUNDERLAND: Wilson, Marrs, Adams, Reed, Oliver, Ferguson, Mitchell, Gorrin, Laidler, Deacon (Mandron 54), Lynch. Subs not used: Joyce, Dixon, Armstrong, Harrison