Writer: Gary Johnson
Date:Thursday March 25 2010
Sunderland`s rich vain of form continued as they battled to hold off fourth spot contenders Aston Villa when they drew 1-1 at Villa Park.
Frazier Campbell bagged his fifth goal of the season just after 22 minutes only to have John Carew to equalise eight minutes later.
It means Steve Bruce`s men are 11 points clear of the drop zone with only one defeat in nine games, surely securing the Black Cats Premier League status for another season.
Villa`s plagued March continues and this result could be the knock back that could dint Martin O`Neil`s Champions League challenge.
With sections of the home crowd jeering Villa over the weekend after their 2-2 draw it looked to be one of those games in the opening six minutes.
Darren Bent unfairly had a goal ruled for offside after clever work from attacking midfielder Kieran Richardson.
But his creativity would come in abundance just after 20 minutes when his perfect cutting pass found Campbell who brilliantly steering his shot around the advancing Brad Friedel.
For a home side to have one of the best defensive record in the Premiership it`s hard to understand how vulnerable they looked when ever Sunderland countered.
But if there was one person to restore the relief in the stadium it was the big man Carew.
Former Toon midfielder James Milner`s neat pass picked put Ashley Young, after a measured cross reached the Norwegian at the far post, the outcome was inevitable.
Sunderland`s sheer grit and determination proved to squander any counter attack that the Villains threw at them, and the away side did have their chances to snatch all three points.
But it would be that £9million Scot to again grab the headlines with yet another brave performance when he reacted sharply to deny Carew and James Colllins early on, and again came to the rescue shortly after the break when Carew drilled an angled shot low to his left.
John Mensah squandered what was the Black Cats best chance when he was left with space and time only to mess up his header after Steed Malbranque pinged a delicate cross.
Villa would press on after the 85th minute right through until the final whistle but it would be Sunderland with the last laugh and look to add more confidence when they head down to Anfield in what will no doubt be a tough game.
But if Steve Bruce`s men can recapture the last four performances and use if against last seasons runners up then perhaps a shock could be on the cards.
Black cats boss Bruce, could not hide his delight after the game and praised his side but refused to get too carried away.
He said, "I'm happy with a point, but I'm happier with the manner of the performance. It was fantastic to see.
"A lot's been said about the 'winter of discontent', but all of a sudden we've lost one game in nine and that was to Arsenal.
"We're looking far more resolute, a lot better physically and mentally, and to come here and get a point against a very good Aston Villa side is very pleasing.
"We've had great opportunities. I've just seen the goal ruled out for offside and it was marginal. Something was in line so we can feel a bit hard done by.
"We were well worthy. It wasn't as if we were hanging on at any time - we've taken the game to them and there were some wonderful performances.
"The resilience was there and that's what's required in the Premier League.
"But we can't take our foot off the gas - we have two massive games coming up against Liverpool and Spurs."
Date:Thursday March 25 2010
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