Villa's sweet and sour foreign experience

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The Independent Online
Sunderland 1 Aston Villa 0

The mixed success of foreign imports into the British game is perfectly illustrated by Aston Villa's experiences of the last year. While Sasa Curcic has continued to thrive in the Premiership following his pounds 4m summer transfer from Bolton Wanderers, Savo Milosevic's less than happy year at Villa Park is likely to end this week with the completion of a pounds 4.25m move to Perugia.

Milosevic, who lost his place in the Villa side earlier this month, has never quite looked the part and Brian Little can be expected to go into the transfer market once the Serb's sale is completed. After Saturday's match at Roker Park, the Villa manager would not be drawn on speculation linking the club with Stan Collymore, the Liverpool striker.

This defeat is likely to have left Little wanting to inject new blood into his team as quickly as possible. Villa rarely looked capable of getting back into the game after Sunderland had taken the lead through Paul Stewart, who forced home the rebound after Mark Bosnich had kept out David Kelly's penalty.

"That is the worst we have played this season," Little said. "We did not pass the ball and it was always going to be difficult when we conceded the penalty."

The penalty was rashly conceded by Bosnich, who had an up-and-down day. The Australian made a series of outstanding saves before being forced to hobble off in the 57th minute after clashing with Stewart.

Peter Reid, the Sunderland manager, was delighted with his side's victory, only the second at home this season. "After the disappointment of losing at Tottenham in the last minute last week, I am delighted for the players," he said.

Sunderland were on top for most of the match and in 18-year-old Michael Bridges, who had an outstanding Premiership debut, they appear to have unearthed a player of real quality.

Goal: Stewart (25) 1-0.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Perez; Hall, Melville, Ord, Kubicki; Kelly, Bracewell, Ball Gray; Stewart, Bridges (Russell, 85). Substitutes not used: Rae, Howey, Naisbett (gk).

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Bosnich (Oakes, 57); Ehiogu, Southgate, Tiler; Taylor, Curcic (Joachim, 61), Draper (Hendrie, 61), Townsend, Wright; Yorke, Johnson. Substitutes not used: Scimeca, Farrelly.

Referee: P E Alcock (Redhill).

Bookings: Sunderland: Gray. Aston Villa: Bosnich.

Man of the match: Bridges. Attendance: 21,059.

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