O'Neill hails determined Villa

Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill praised the resilience of his side as they beat Sunderland 2-1 in their fifth game in 13 days.

Victory ensured Villa remain in the top four of the Premier League, and they had to do it the hard way.

Villa trailed to Djibril Cisse’s second goal of the season but Ashley Young and John Carew struck before half-time to settle the issue in favour of the home side.

It was the perfect response for O’Neill after the shock midweek Carling Cup defeat at the hands of QPR.

O’Neill said: “Sunderland had a lot of possession and they were pushing us right to the end but I thought we did brilliantly to fight back and get the win.

“I am absolutely delighted with the team, delighted with their determination and naturally delighted with a win.

“We had to fight back and try to blow the cobwebs away after losing to QPR in the Carling Cup on Wednesday.

“I’m just really pleased the side has come through and come through strongly. Some performances were outstanding.

“But for us to win today, coming from behind, I really am delighted with the team.

“The side has done well but we didn’t have much more energy left in the game and I think the majority of the crowd will forgive us for keeping the ball in the corner in the last few minutes.

“They will forgive us because in terms of entertainment we are as strong as anyone in Britain in that department.”

O’Neill hailed the performance of midfielder Stiliyan Petrov who is starting to show the form he demonstrated at Celtic before his move to Villa two years ago.

He said: “I thought Petrov was unbelievable today. He had never really captured the form I had seen him display at Celtic. He has had to adapt to playing a holding role here.

“His confidence is high. Confidence is a big thing in football. His confidence was low last season. Now he is setting things in motion, winning balls. He was outstanding today.”

Sunderland boss Roy Keane admitted his side paid the penalty for conceding two silly free-kicks, the first of which was converted by Young and the second led to Carew’s winning strike.

Keane said: “You’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net and, for all our decent play and good possession, particularly in the second half, we didn’t test the ’keeper enough.

“We felt there was definitely something there for the taking today so we are disappointed with that side of things.

“But we know Villa are going to be pretty decent at set-pieces. Their record would suggest that, the number of goals they have scored over the last couple of years.

“The first goal was very sloppy, a needless tackle, and the wall could have done better. For the second one we were in decent possession and gave it away.

“If they had opened us up and scored some goals against us, then you hold your hand up, but we invited the trouble on and they took full advantage so credit to Villa for that.

“We felt we did enough to get a result but in the final third did not produce that bit of quality that you need to get something in a Premier League game.”

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