Sunderland 1 Aston Villa 1: Keane may receive touchline ban after Bennett confrontation

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The Independent Online

Roy Keane had hoped that the days of him chasing referees were over but so incensed was he on Saturday over Steve Bennett's decision to disallow Danny Collins' injury-time header that his touchline discontent led to him launching a diatribe at Bennett in the tunnel after the final whistle. A rumour that Keane had to be restrained physically is incorrect, but, if Bennett includes the tunnel confrontation in his report, then the Sunderland manager can expect a fine and possibly a touchline ban.

Keane is already facing censure for his post-match remarks, in which he did not call Bennett a cheat, though he did use the word "cheated" about how he and Sunderland fans were feeling.

Had Collins' header stood Bennett thought that the defender had fouled Aston Villa's goalkeeper Scott Carson Sunderland would have won 2-1 and been 15th this morning in the Premier League, rather than 17th. As it stands they are one place and one point above the relegation zone.

"He got a big call wrong," Keane said of Bennett. "There's such a fine margin at the end. We're on 14 points at the moment, another two and it would have been 16. Massive. You have to wait half an hour after the game to speak to him and whoever invented that rule is obviously very clever. If he comes out with his reasons fair enough, but there's no logic to it."

Martin O'Neill did think that Collins put his arm across Carson and O'Neill was justified in saying that a Villa defeat would hardly have been representative. Having fallen behind to Danny Higginbotham's header, the visitors recovered and took the match to Sunderland. It was, however, not until the 73rd minute, when substitute Shaun Maloney bent a beguiling free-kick over the home wall, that Villa equalised.

That Sunderland goalkeeper Darren Ward made no great saves was evidence that for all Ashley Young's skill and purpose, Sunderland's defence was coping, but only just on occasions.

That said a lot because this was arguably the weakest XI Keane has sent out in the Premier League. A harsh assessment would be that at least eight of the side would not look out of place in the Championship.

That is where all 11 have just come from, which is why Keane has talked of the need to sign Premier League experience in January. Getting Sunderland as far up the table as possible when January dawns is therefore a priority and the lamentable away record has to be addressed at Reading. After that it is Manchester United here, and Bolton.

For Villa it was a stabilising result after two home defeats. Victory at home to Manchester City would keep them on course for a Uefa Cup place.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Ward; Whitehead, McShane, Higginbotham, Collins; Wallace (Cole, 83) Etuhu (Leadbitter, 61) Yorke, Murphy; Jones, Stokes (Chopra, 70). Substitutes not used: Gordon, O'Donovan.

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Carson; Mellberg, Knight, Laursen, Bouma; Gardner (Maloney, 67) Reo-Coker, Barry, Young; Carew, Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Taylor, Berger, Osbourne, Harewood.

Referee: S Bennett (Kent).

Booked: Sunderland Whitehead, Yorke; Aston Villa Gardner, Young.

Man of the match: Young.

Attendance: 43,248.

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