Villa U21 1-1 Sunderland U21: Calder on target in draw
Riccardo Calder netted his first goal of the Barclays U21 Premier League season as Villa were held by table-topping Sunderland.
Winger Calder struck during the first period as the boys in claret and blue rallied against the Black Cats.
But a strong Sunderland side - featuring Connor Wickham and Andrea Dossena - fought back after the break, equalisng through David Moberg Karlsson.
It was an action-packed start to proceedings at The Lamb with both teams coming close to finding an early deadlock-breaker.
All eyes were on Graham Burke who returned to the Villa fold following a loan spell in League One with Shrewsbury Town.
And Burke soon found himself in the thick of the action, hitting the foot of the post on three minutes after Callum Robinson muscled his way down the right hand side to tee up his strike partner.
But Connor Wickham and Duncan Watmore continually caused problems for the claret and blues - the former having two good chances to score.
The first - a powerful left-foot drive from 20 yards - forced Benjamin Siegrist to dive to his left to push away. Wickham also glanced a free header inches wide of the target.
If Wickham and Watmore looked threatening for Sunderland, though, Villa's forward pairing of Burke and Robinson were equally dangerous.
Robinson once again found Burke with a pass inside and the Irishman's thumping low 25-yard drive forced Joe Dixon into a fine one-handed save.
The breakthrough finally came on the half hour mark when Calder came in off the left flank and reacted quickest to guide Andras Stieber's right-wing cross into the net from close range.
Alejandro Rodriguez Gorrin came close to levelling for the visitors just before half-time but fired wide of the target after intricately weaving past two defenders.
The second period was a far less feisty affair with Villa not quite managing to find the same fluidity as before the break.
Stieber couldn't make a contact with Burke's raking ball soon after the restart.
But the Black Cats began to take control. Their equaliser - on 62 minutes - arrived in scrappy fashion. When George Honeyman's shot came back off the post, David Moberg Karlsson controlled well and composed himself to hit a follow-up goalwards. Siegrist scrambled back to get a touch but couldn't do enough to keep it out.
Watmore and Wickham dictated play in the final half an hour but Villa centre-backs Janoi Donacien and Brad Lewis made a string of heroic blocks to counter the Mackems.
VILLA: Siegrist, Webb, Donacien, Lewis, Kinsella, Stieber, Cowans, Johnson, Calder, Burke, Robinson. Subs: Bateman [for Lewis, 74], Watkins, Graham [for Calder, 80], Abdo [for Stieber, 74], Sellars.
SUNDERLAND: Dixon, Marrs, Dossena, Ba, McNamee, Harrison, Watmore, Gorrin, Wickham, Honeyman, Karlsson. Subs: Mitchell [for Karlsson, 80], Talbot, Agnew [for Ba, 63], Ferguson, Lawson [for Honeyman, 63].