Sunderland 2-2 Aston Villa

By Becky AshtonBBC Sport
Connor Wickham celebrates his first Premier League goal against Aston Villa
Connor Wickham joined Sunderland in June for £8.1million

Goals from Connor Wickham and Stephane Sessegnon saw Sunderland twice come from behind to draw with Aston Villa.

Stiliyan Petrov opened the scoring with a stunning shot from 20 yards before Wickham slid home from the edge of the box as Sunderland had the better of the first half.

Richard Dunne's header five minutes from time saw Villa retake the lead.

But with just a minute remaining, Sessegnon rose highest to head past Villa keeper Shay Given.

In the end, a point was fair on both sides, as in patches each had dominated proceedings.

Bruce relieved after late draw

Sunderland had the better of the first half but Villa responded well, led twice, and merited their point.

Villa boss Alex McLeish will have warned his players about the threat of Sebastian Larsson as the duo were together at Birmingham City.

But the Swede was causing the Villa defence all sorts of problems from dead balls, twice forcing Shay Given into saves in the opening six minutes.

Darren Bent, whose every touch was booed by the home support, got limited opportunities in attack but he did go close on 16 minutes.

Gabriel Agbonlahor played a good ball in from the left and Bent was waiting on the far post but Kieran Richardson did enough to put him off and the ball went behind.

After failing to convert their dominance into goals, however, the home side were made to pay when Petrov opened the scoring on 20 minutes, with a superb long-range effort.

Agbonlahor was given time and space on the left and he played a perfectly weighted pass for Alan Hutton, who controlled and laid it off for Petrov to hit a first-time shot into the top corner.

Wickham then went close to levelling things on 27 minutes when his header, from a corner by Larsson, was headed off the line by Stephen Warnock.

The former Ipswich striker did find the target on 38 minutes when he scored his first Premier League goal following his summer switch.

Sessegnon played a clever pass beyond the Villa defence and Wickham raced through and despite the efforts of three defenders he fired across Given into the bottom right-hand corner.

After John O'Shea limped off through injury in the first half, Sunderland manager Steve Bruce was forced to make a second change just seven minutes after the restart.

Goalkeeper Simon Mignolet was caught in the face by Emile Heskey in an aerial challenge and could not continue so Keiren Westwood, who joined the Black Cats from Coventry in June, came on to make his Premier League debut.

McLeish downbeat after conceding late goal

His first real action came on 73 minutes when he prevented Bent from scoring.

Agbonlahor was the provider again as he played a neat ball through for the striker but his first-time shot was saved by the keeper with his feet.

At this point the visitors looked the more likely to find a winner and went ahead with just five minutes to go when Dunne headed past Westwood, from Petrov's free-kick.

But Sunderland were back on level terms again with just two minutes to go when Sessegnon scored for the second match in succession.

The chance came from another Larsson free-kick and the midfielder headed past Given from six yards out.

Following the game, Black Cats boss Steve Bruce revealed that Mignolet has suffered a badly broken nose following the clash with Heskey and was taken to hospital to have CT scans on his jaw, cheekbone and teeth.

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish:

"Darren Bent will be agonising over [his late miss] as all good players do. He will be wondering if he should have hit it harder or higher and he's the one who will decide.

"As all good players do, they look back on their good moments and the moments that didn't quite work out.

"There was disappointment at not scoring but there was great movement to get the chance."

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:

"We fell behind to a wonder strike. I thought we were better in the first half but Villa were the better in the second half and we were always chasing the game.

"It was difficult but we showed a terrific spirit and to rescue a point with two minutes to go was good."

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