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Sunday 22nd October 2000
Aston Villa 0-0 Sunderland
FA Carling Premiership

Kevin Phillips came within a whisker of lifting Sunderland to eighth in the Premiership table as his second half volley cannoned off the crossbar in a bitterly disappointing clash with Aston Villa.

The striker is desperate to prove that he has what it takes to play on the international stage and in a moment of magic 20 minutes from time, he showed the skill that has got his so many Premiership goals in the last year.

The ball fell to Phillips on the edge of the penalty area as Villa struggled to clear, he controlled with his thigh, wrong-footing two defenders, before unleashing a marvellous dipping volley which thumped the crossbar.

Sunderland boss Peter Reid was left in awe his striker, telling Sky Sports: “It was an incredible piece of skill and he was very unlucky. We had the best chances in the game and should have won.”

It was the highlight of a dire game in which two sides with European aspirations failed to create many clear-cut chances and the game petered out into only the second goalless draw between the teams in 143 clashes.

Phillips also had the best chance of the opening period, shooting from a tight angle but David James was equal to it. In fact, such was the low key start to the game that the highlight of the first 45 minutes was seeing referee Peter Jones limp off to be replaced by fourth official Rob Styles.

James was finally called into action late on the stroke of half-time as he tipped Lee Hendrie’s powerful effort over the bar, but he was far busier in the second period.

He blocked well as Kevin Kilbane broke down the right channel and got lucky when Niall Quinn toe-poked wide after he flapped at a cross.

However, the longer the match wore on, the more Villa fought into the game. With 20 minutes remaining, Darius Vassell replaced Dion Dublin and almost won the game for the home side.

His pace and skill were causing the Black Cats’ defence all kinds of problems and he should have done better 10 yards out than to miscue his shot high and wide.

Alpay should have broken the deadlock in second half injury time, but, as with the rest of the game, his header from Paul Merson’s delightful free-kick was poor and drifted harmlessly wide of Sorensen’s goal.

Aston Villa: James, Southgate, Alpay, Barry, Wright, Stone, Merson, Taylor, Hendrie (Boateng 73), Dublin (Vassell 70), Joachim.
Subs Not Used: De Bilde, Samuel, Enckelman.
Booked: Southgate.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Craddock, Thome, Gray, Kilbane, Rae, Williams, Arca, Quinn, Phillips (Hutchison 90).
Subs Not Used: Macho, Dichio, Thirlwell, Reddy.
Booked: Rae, Phillips, Arca.

Att: 27,215
Ref: P Jones (Loughborough).

Defender Gareth Southgate thanked manager John Gregory after some training ground preparation allowed Aston Villa to shut out Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn.

Southgate told Sky Sports: "Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips do work well together, so we've done a lot of work in training this week to prepare for them and it's paid off for us today.

"Their front two are a handful - it was a bit of a scrap. We created a lot of pressure but didn't create too many chances so we've got to be happy with a point.”

Central defensive partner Gareth Barry added: "It was a very close game we knew it would be – we should have had all three points, but we'll take one."

Sunderland boss Peter Reid also believed that his side should have taken three points from the game He said: "I thought we had the best chances and looked comfortable until a couple of decisions went against us from the substitute referee.

"Kevin Phillips' shot and Niall Quinn's miss were the best chances of the game.But I was disappointed with some of our play because we didn't get quality balls in in the last third of the pitch.

"It wasn't the greatest of games but I thought we put them under a bit of pressure, until the referee went crackers and gave them a few decisions which put us under the cosh."
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