Aston Villa vs Sunderland match report: Fabian Delph sent off in goalless draw at Villa Park as Gus Poyet slams 'inhuman' schedule

Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0

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The Independent Football

Christmas is a time of excess, unless it involves Aston Villa and Sunderland who maintained their season-long abstinence in front of goal at Villa Park.

Villa have now scored 11 goals in 20 matches, Sunderland have scored 16 in 19 league games. All of which meant this goalless scoreline was not a surprise. Nevertheless, 35,000-plus turned up, including 3,000 from Sunderland, which is astonishing given the price of travel and modern football tickets.

They were treated to a ponderous first half and a better second period, largely because Sunderland came out to play after Villa were reduced to 10 men early in the later period with the dismissal of Fabian Delph.

His was Villa’s third red card in four matches, which have yielded two points and one goal. Yet manager Paul Lambert insisted, “I have no fear the goals will come. I am happy with the way we are playing, the chances are there.”

Both he and Gus Poyet blamed the lacklustre nature of the match on fatigue with each having played Boxing Day though Villa’s energetic efforts with 10 men rather undermined their manager’s viewpoint.

“It is hard enough playing with ten when playing Saturday to Saturday, playing with ten when you have played twice in three games is hard so all credit to the lads,” said Lambert. “We kept knocking at the door and could have won it.”

Poyet, who said playing twice in three days was ‘inhuman’, made three changes from the XI that started lost at home to Hull on Boxing Day while Lambert, limited by injuries and suspensions, made just the one alteration to the team beaten at Swansea. 

Carlos Sanchez of Aston Villa battles for the ball with Jordi Gomez


Villa began with greater intent and it needed a sure-footed tackle from John O’Shea to halt Andreas Weimann after 10 minutes. However, once Sunderland settled Villa found it hard to break them down and the half meandered to the break amid a plethora of misplaced places and the occasional well-judged tackle.

Then referee Martin Atkinson livened up the afternoon. Delph, hitherto largely anonymous, lunged late into a tackle with Jordi Gomez. The Spaniard screamed in agony but there was no outrage from adjacent team-mates and it was a surprise all around when Atkinson showed Delph red. Gomez, after brief treatment, went on to play the full 90 minutes.

“I don’t think there was any malice in the challenge, but you probably don’t need to have much contact in the modern game,” said a sanguine Lambert. Poyet felt Delph was unfortunate, but added ‘another three inches and he could have broken Jordi’s ankle’.


Sunderland now felt compelled to seek a winner while Villa also continued to venture forward. Brad Guzan dealt comfortably with shots from Adam Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherini but needed his defenders’ help to deal with a clever backheel from Connor Wickham as Sunderland pressed.

Villa, always happier on the counter, responded with the lively Jack Grealish curling a shot wide and then Ron Vlaar having a near-post header tipped around the post by Costel Pantimilion.

In a frantic finish Gomez hit the post with a fierce drive, Leandro Bacuna brought a flying save from Pantimilion, Wickham tested Guzan again, then Christian Benteke, braving a wild challenge from the Sunderland keeper, put a Bacuna cross into the side netting.

“I am disappointed not to take three three points, especially after the sending off,” said Poyet. “We went a little bit crazy, we tried too hard.”