Hosting Villa almost broke the deadlock within the opening minute when Gabriel Agbonlahor charged down a clearance from Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The ball fell to Andreas Weimann, who sent a chipped effort towards goal. However, Mignolet retreated to atone for his earlier error.
Weimann again went close in the 27th minute when he beat three Sunderland defenders before drilling a shot into the side netting.
Martin O'Neill's Sunderland enjoyed large spells in possession during the half, but they failed to have a shot on target.
Their only meaningful effort fell to Nicklas Bendtner, but he headed over the bar from 10 yards out.