In the last few minutes of the match, Aston Villa put together some excitement today. Sunderland's Jordi Gomez took a blazing shot that Brad Guzan was able to just tip into the post, but the rebound was so fierce that it sparked a Villa counter. Christian Benteke screamed up the pitch, only to be yanked down for a clear foul. He got up, instead, and carried on, sending the ball wide to Andi Weimann and then chaos reigned for a few minutes. It all ended when Benteke couldn't finish a nice chance that should've been a goal had Costel Pantilimon not come barging into him.
That paragraph ought to make things sound exciting. I was always told that when writing sports stories you should lead with something that will hook readers. So you get that. Because if I told you about the rest of the match you'd all just disappear. Today's was a largely uneventful 90 minutes spoiled by a few moments of something actually happening. The first half, in particular, was a dreadful slog the likes of which I cannot remember ever having seen before. Lots and lots of completed passes from both teams that added up to absolutely nothing.
But the second half saw a little more. The big moment came when Fabian Delph went diving in for a late tackle and was shown a red card. It was over the ball, and it was late, but the tackle wasn't high and I'm not sure the straight red was merited. That said, I don't think it was egregious enough for us to expect it to be overturned. So that may have been Delph's last action in claret and blue if he gets sold this January.
It was also Villa's third red card in four matches, and the team actually looked pretty decent down a man. Sunderland had moments where they pressured, but the defense did generally well and were saved by Brad Guzan when they made mistakes. Carlos Sanchez, though, was the club's best player. He helped to clean up a few mistakes, and generally earned his nickname of The Rock in the midfield.
One last quick note: in a match full of dull, Jack Grealish looked genuinely fantastic today. He was creating chances and making runs that we've all wanted to see from him. It was pretty much what he's done in other chances, but even better. With Delph out after the red and Westwood still injured, it really should be time to start seeing Grealish get a start or two.
So Villa come out of it with only a point today. It's tempting to say that the result wasn't terrible. Down a man and holding on is no mean feat, after all. But this was a match that Villa really needed to win. Moral victories are getting tiring. Let's see some real ones instead.