Scott Sinclair double in vain for Aston Villa
Tim Sherwood said this week it was too early in the season for must-win games but he will be disappointed his Aston Villa side were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Sunderland.
Neither team has shown too much so far to suggest significant improvement on last season's struggles towards the bottom of the Barclays Premier league but on this showing Villa may just have enough as an attacking force to survive.
Sunderland, on the other hand, perhaps not so. With their problems lying at the opposite end of the pitch, they will not keep many clean sheets this season.
Dick Advocaat's team led through Yann M'Vila's superb free-kick but a Scott Sinclair double before half-time turned the game on its head.
However, Villa could not hold on to the lead either and Jeremain Lens levelled for Sunderland early in the second half.
Sherwood's side pushed for a winning goal and had a couple of penalty shouts turned down but it ended all square.
Sunderland went ahead after eight minutes through M'Vila's free-kick. His lovely curling shot around the Villa wall left Brad Guzan, diving at full stretch, with no chance.
But the lead lasted just three minutes. Lee Cattermole clumsily leant over the top of Sinclair and referee Robert Madley pointed to the penalty spot.
Sinclair took the spot-kick himself and tucked the ball away into the left-hand side of the net, sending Costel Pantilimon the wrong way.
Villa were now in the ascendancy and Sinclair went close again before Ashley Westwood's first-time shot from the right side of the area flew just wide.
Carlos Sanchez perhaps should have done better than guide his far-post shot over the crossbar when Leandro Bacuna's cross from the left evaded everyone in the box and fell at the feet of the Colombia international.
Rudy Gestede, a handful for the Sunderland defenders throughout, then showed good strength with his back to goal to turn Billy Jones and get a shot away which Pantilimon held.
Villa made their pressure pay four minutes before half-time when Idrissa Gueye set Jordan Amavi free down the left and Sinclair got between two defenders inside the six-yard box to divert his low cross into the roof of the net.
Whatever Advocaat said to his players at the break it got that late first-half disappointment out of their systems - although two substitutions played a big part.
The Dutchman replaced Danny Graham and Cattermole with Steven Fletcher and Ola Toivonen, on for his debut following his loan arrival this week from French club Rennes.
Fletcher was involved straight away as Sunderland started the second half brightly, with his header having to be tipped over the crossbar by Guzan.
Shortly afterwards, Toivonen joined the party. His threaded through ball found Lens, who turned Ciaran Clark and fired his shot beyond Guzan.
Sinclair somehow squandered the chance of a second hat-trick in four days as he got on the end of Gueye's driven cross but the ball struck his body just a couple of yards from goal and ricocheted into the grateful hands of Pantilimon.
Villa thought they had a penalty 10 minutes from time when substitute Carles Gil went down under a challenge from Younes Kaboul but the referee booked the Villa man for simulation.
Pantilimon produced a good save to deny Ashley Westwood and then kept out a Gestede header as the hosts searched for a winner but Sunderland held on to their point.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Sunderland in lime green - awful." - Football presenter Richard Keys was unimpressed with Sunderland's away kit.
https://twitter.com/richardajkeys/status/637627451510689792 - @richardajkeys
Brad Guzan 5
Micah Richards 6
Ciaran Clark 5
Leandro Bacuna 5
Idrissa Gana 6
Scott Sinclair 7
Ashley Westwood 6
Alan Hutton 5
Jordan Amavi 6
Carlos Sanchez 6
Rudy Gestede 6
Carles Gil 5
Costel Pantilimon 8
Billy Jones 5
Patrick van Aanholt
Lee Catermole 3
Jack Rodwell 5
Younes Kaboul 5
John O'Shea 5
Jeremain Lens 6
Jermain Defo e 6
Danny Graham 4
Yann M'Vila 6
Ola Toivonen 6
Seb Larsson 5
Steven Fletcher 6
Pantilimon - did not really have much chance with either goal he conceded but made some important saves to ensure his side escaped with a point.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Villa's second goal was Sherwood's side at their fluent best - a lovely move rounded off with a sliding finish from Sinclair.
VIEW FROM BENCH
Sherwood found it hard to hide his frustration when referee Robert Madley not only failed to give his side a penalty but booked Gil for diving. He shaped to kick a clutch of water bottles on the touchline but refrained from doing so.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Sunderland employed a few time-wasting tactics late in the game, which is always frustrating to see.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Leicester v Aston Villa (Premier League, Sunday 13 September)
Sunderland v Tottenham (Premier League, Sunday 13 September)