Bardsley strikes to send Villa tumbling into relegation zone

Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 1

Gerard Houllier claimed recently that he is facing his biggest challenge in altering the fortunes at Aston Villa. This morning it looks like a task beyond the 63-year-old Frenchman, whose only contribution of note since taking over from Martin O'Neill is to drag the club into the bottom three for the first time in eight years.

The embarrassment of Emile Heskey's sending-off and David Bardsley's 80th-minute goal, which condemned Houllier to another miserable night in front of his own supporters was made worse by the Holte End's rousing rendition of "you're getting sacked in the morning" as he walked to the dressing room after the final whistle.

"Of course it hurts, but at the same time I can understand their reaction. What is important is the backing of the chairman and the chief executive. I know it is not easy for them at the moment," said Houllier.

"We have to stay together. That will make us stronger. I understand their frustrations. I spoke with Paul Faulkner after the game and he was very supportive. When I hear things like that from the supporters it makes me more determined to put things right.

"I don't doubt Mr Lerner's firm support and determination to get things right at the club. We are in this together for better or for worse." Right now it is worse. For all the talk by Houllier of the impressive draw against Chelsea last Sunday being clear proof that there is nothing wrong with the spirit, one performance does not carry much clout when measured against the poverty that had preceded events at Stamford Bridge.

Heskey was shown a straight red by referee Peter Walton for pushing his hand in the face of Jordan Henderson in the 65th minute and although Boudewijn Zenden was also dismissed in the closing minutes for his second yellow card it did not prevent Sunderland winning only their second game away from the Stadium of Light this season.

Unfortunately for Steve Bruce the victory was overshadowed by the loss of David Meyler on a stretcher after 35 minutes with what he fears is a recurrence of the cruciate ligament injury that he suffered in May last year against Manchester United. The youngster was only five games into his comeback when he collapsed without a single player around him and Bruce said: "I am pleased with the result, but I am devastated for Meyler and it takes the edge off it. He is a great boy and all he wanted to do was to get fit. All he wants to do is play football. I am kicking myself for asking him to play two games in three days, but I did not have anyone to pick who could have the impact he could have," said Bruce. Danny Welbeck suffered a hamstring injury in the second half and will have a scan today which may force Bruce to reappraise his plans for the January transfer market.

Aston Villa (4-4-2) Friedel, Cuellar, Dunne, Collins, Clark, A Young, Reo-Coker (Bannan, 88), Petrov (Albrighton, 88), Downing, Agbonlahor, Heskey.

Sunderland (4-5-1) Gordon, Bardsley, Ferdinand, Bramble, Richardson, Elmohamady, Meyler (Zenden, 39), Henderson, Malbranque (Gyan, 55), Welbeck (Riveros, 83), Bent.

Referee P Walton (Northants).

Man of the match Bardsley.

Match rating 5/10.

Attendance 32,627.

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Men with beards rejoice: Your beard probably doesn't harbour faeces-like bacteria
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
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

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

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before