Sunderland 1-1 Stoke: Point keeps 10-man Black Cats in thick of relegation scrap
Despite a numerical disadvantage following Craig Gardner's dismissal, the home side fought back to draw thanks to John O'Shea's second-half equaliser
By Jak Penny
John O’Shea earned ten-man Sunderland a draw in their bid for Premier League survival, denying Stoke the chance to pull away from danger, though a share of the spoils still keeps both sides in danger.
Jon Walters powered home from close range to give the Potters a ninth minute lead, before the home side were rocked by a straight red card for Craig Gardner following a dangerous tackle on Charlie Adam later in the first half.
But the Black Cats responded after the break through captain John O’Shea's equaliser, firing home from close range after a Sebastian Larsson set-piece, leaving both side's Premier League futures uncertain.
Paolo Di Canio made two changes to the side that was thrashed by Aston Villa last Monday, with Jack Colback and James McLean coming in to replace Phil Bardsley and the suspended Stephane Sessegnon.
Pulis also made two alterations to his team as they sought a third straight league win, bringing former Black Cats midfielder Dean Whitehead and Marc Wilson in for Glenn Whelan and Andy Wilkinson.
The hosts found themselves perched two points above the bottom three following results at the weekend, and knew nothing less than a victory would suffice if they were to begin pulling away from danger.
That appeared to resonate with the players as they stormed out of the blocks, enjoying a large share of possession, only for their approach play to be foiled by a lack of finesse and precision with their final ball.
Their imprudence was swiftly punished by Stoke, who broke the deadlock in familiar fashion. Over half their league goals have come from set-pieces this season, so it was no surprise that their first corner of the game bred the opening goal, with Charlie Adam picking out Walters. The Irish striker reacted quickly to power the ball in off the underside of the crossbar after his initial header hit Danny Graham.
Frustrations soon boiled over and the Black Cats were reduced to 10-men just past the half hour mark after Gardner flew in late on Adam prompting referee Lee Mason to send the midfielder for an early bath.
Clear-cut chances were sparse, with Adam Johnson firing a free kick narrowly wide in first half injury time and it was he that carried the biggest Sunderland threat after the interval, weaving his way in-field from the right flank and powering a fierce 20-yard drive into the chest of Asmir Begovic.
Stoke continued to threatening on the break as the home side committed bodies forward, with Cameron Jerome denied by a superb block from O’Shea after Ryan Shotton teed him up.
And it proved significant as the Black Cats finally levelled just after the hour mark. Whitehead inadvertently glanced Sebastian Larsson’s corner towards the back post and the unmarked O’Shea, who gratefully stabbed the ball over the line, eliciting the customary wild celebration from Di Canio.
With parity restored both teams went in search of a winner, with Whitehead drilling straight at Mignolet and Danny Rose shaving the post with a spectacular hit at the other end, but neither side could find the win they truly required.
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