Aston Villa 2 Sunderland 2: M'Vila and Lens secure hard-fought point
Sunderland are still chasing their first Premier League win of the season, but first club goals for Yann M'Vila and Jeremain Lens earned Dick Advocaat's men a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday.
'Crisis talks' following two consecutive defeats at the start of the campaign seem to have made an impact at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland followed up a draw against Swansea City with another resolute display, securing a point despite Scott Sinclair netting twice for Villa.
Questions were raised of M'Vila's attitude after his Sunderland arrival was followed by a red card for the Under-21 side, but he produced a glimpse of his technical prowess after just eight minutes, bending home a fine free-kick to open his Premier League account.
But Sinclair, starting in place of Gabriel Agbonlahor, gave Villa an almost-immediate response from the penalty spot after finding himself manhandled by Lee Cattermole.
Sinclair struck again, his fifth goal in two games after a League Cup hat-trick against Notts County on Tuesday, but Sunderland began the second period with renewed purpose and Lens equalised in the 52nd minute.
Villa enjoyed the lion's share of possession and should have gone ahead again through Micah Richards, but Sunderland's character shone through, holding on to deny the hosts a first win since the opening day.
Sunderland appeared to find some rhythm against Swansea following a dismal start to the season and it came as little surprise to see fit-again Younes Kaboul replace Sebastian Coates as the solitary change from that starting XI.
The visitors looked buoyant during the early exchanges and their positive start was swiftly rewarded as M'Vila curled an inch-perfect 25-yard set-piece into the top right-hand corner.
Their joy was short-lived, however, as Cattermole rashly hauled Sinclair down in the area three minutes later and the winger made no mistake from the resulting penalty.
Villa looked to kick on after restoring parity and began to monopolise possession, but their probing struggled to produce any clear-cut opportunities until Sinclair was the man in the right place at the right time four minutes before the break as the former Manchester City attacker latched on to Jordan Amavi's teasing cross and completed the Villa turnaround.
Advocaat made the bold decision to introduce debutant Ola Toivonen and Steven Fletcher at the break and it had the desired effect within six minutes of the restart.
Sanchez found himself robbed of possession by Toivonen and the Sweden international fed Lens, who skipped inside Ciaran Clark and found the net via a wicked deflection.
Villa should have retaken the lead just before the hour mark, but Richards inexplicably failed to convert from close range, allowing Sinclair's cross to strike him and go away from goal despite being right underneath the crossbar.
Despite some fine defending, Sunderland were forced to ride their luck and only a Costel Pantilimon save kept them on level terms eight minutes from time, palming Ashley Westwood's goal-bound effort away following Rudy Gestede's knock-down and preserving a point.