Sunderland 1 Aston Villa 1

Last updated : 15 December 2007 By Footymad Previewer
Sunderland were robbed of a dramatic winner against Aston Villa to leave them embroiled in a battle to preserve their Premier League status.

Late goal specialists, the Black Cats looked to have conjured up another last-gasp winner at the Stadium of Light.

But intervention by match official Steve Bennett saw the late header by Danny Collins ruled out for foul on Villa keeper Scott Carson.

A draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play, but that won't appease irate Sunderland manager Roy Keane, who labelled Bennett's decision a "disgrace".

The hosts got off to a great start when central defender Danny Higginbotham got up well to head past Carson with just ten minutes on the clock - rising to power in Ross Wallace's corner.

But they could not get that elusive second goal and Villa soon began to ask questions of the home defence.

The visitors went on the offensive, but Sunderland defended stoutly to prevent them from finding their finishing touch in a first half where clear-cut goalmouth incidents were at a premium.

Villa came out after the break rejuvenated and in the opening five minutes tore into the Wearsiders.

Again the hosts stood firm in the face of intense pressure and must have thought they had weathered the storm after that initial burst.

Villa though kept coming forward and were rewarded for their efforts when Sunderland handed them a way back into the clash.

Substitute Michael Chopra unnecessarily surrendered possession in the middle of the park and defender Paul McShane felled Shaun Maloney as he tried to win back the ball on the edge of the area.

Up stepped Maloney to curl in a terrific free-kick which left Black Cats keeper Darren Ward rooted to the spot and put Villa back on level terms.

The goal should have given the visitors the impetus to go on and win it, but in truth both sides went in search of all three points.

And it looked like it was Sunderland that had nicked them when Collins got on the end of Grant Leadbitter's corner.

But as the Sunderland players celebrated, the home fans could only look on in horror and disbelief as Bennett blew for the foul.

There were suggestions that Collins had been penalised for a flailing arm, but Keane was adamant that his side deserved the spoils.