Bardsley sends Villa into the dropzone

Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 1

Aston Villa dropped into the bottom three of the Barclays Premier League for the first time in seven years as their former loan signing Phil Bardsley earned Sunderland victory at Villa Park.

Gerard Houllier's side slipped into the relegation zone on goal difference as a result of Wolves' shock victory over champions Chelsea at Molineux.

Villa had striker Emile Heskey sent off for violent conduct before Bardsley's decider and then Black Cats substitute Boudewijn Zenden was given his marching orders for two bookable offences.

A small section of Villa fans chanted "you are going to get sacked in the morning" towards Houllier after Bardsley had broken the deadlock.

But the calls for Houllier to go were more intensified at the final whistle.

The last time Villa were in such a lowly position was in November 2003 during David O'Leary's reign as manager.

But Sunderland's second away win of the campaign keeps them on course for a European spot.

The first chance fell to Sunderland midfielder Steed Malbranque after Carlos Cuellar failed to make contact with a deep cross from Bardsley.

But Malbranque failed to test Brad Friedel with his header which drifted a couple of yards wide.

Kieran Richardson became the first player to be yellow carded after five minutes when he brought down Villa striker Emile Heskey in full flight.

Villa started to exert some pressure and Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon did well to finger-tip away a Stewart Downing free-kick under pressure.

A fine pass from Villa skipper Stiliyan Petrov allowed Nigel Reo-Coker a run at goal but he was halted by Malbranque's challenge.

Reo-Coker then played in Ashley Young but his first touch was not the best and Craig Gordon was able to collect.

Bardsley produced a fine tackle inside his own box to deny Heskey after he had made a powerful run.

Ciaran Clark became the first Villa player to be yellow carded after 29 minutes for a reckless challenge on Jordan Henderson.

Clark's mistimed pass then almost proved costly as it was seized upon by David Meyler but Darren Bent was unable to make the most of his pass.

Sunderland were forced into a change after 38 minutes when Meyler pulled up suddenly, slumped to the ground and had to be stretchered off and he was replaced by Zenden.

Heskey, who played under Bruce at Birmingham and Wigan, was guilty of a glaring miss five minutes before half-time.

Downing did well to get to the by-line and shake of Zenden's challenge before sending a low ball across the box.

Heskey seemed certain to score but, from three yards out, he shot against the crossbar.

Sunderland skipper Titus Bramble was booked for holding back Heskey and the Villa striker then headed wide from Young's cross when well placed.

James Collins was booked in injury-time for a challenge on Danny Welbeck.

There was a quiet start to the second period but Malbranque could have broken the deadlock after 50 minutes.

Collins' clearing header lacked conviction and was nodded back down by Bent to Malbranque who volleyed over from eight yards out.

Collins came to the rescue in atoning for his own error three minutes later. He was shaken off the ball by Bent who went around Friedel but Collins recovered to block his shot on the line.

Sunderland were now in the ascendancy and Cuellar diverted a goalbound shot from Malbranque around the post.

But Sunderland were the more threatening and Friedel got his body behind Welbeck's stinging low drive.

Zenden was yellow carded for bringing down the powerful Heskey but Villa were reduced to 10 men after 68 minutes when Heskey was sent off.

Henderson appeared upset Heskey did not put the ball out of play so Asamoah Gyan could have treatment.

He responded by shoving Henderson in the face and was given his marching orders by referee Peter Walton.

With 10 minutes left Bardsley broke the deadlock with a low 25-yard drive after Zenden's free-kick had been blocked.

Welbeck was stretchered off after 83 minutes and replaced by Cristian Riveros.

Zenden was also sent off for a second bookable offence when he fouled Stiliyan Petrov two minutes later.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss