Sunderland 1 Stoke 1

Published:
by Stuart Vose

O'Shea equaliser rescues home point.

John O'Shea scored what could be a priceless goal to rescue a point for a Sunderland side who were forced to play with ten men for an hour.

The first period turned into a nightmare for the Black Cats, who went behind to an early Jon Walters strike before losing Craig Gardner to a straight red card 13 minutes before the break.

But the home side produced a spirited second-half fightback, capped by a vital goal from their skipper just after the hour as O'Shea turned a Seb Larsson corner home from close range.

That goal could be key come the end of the season for the Black Cats, who came close to a winner when Danny Rose hit a post late on.

Their second-half fight and spirit was commendable, summed up by a full-bore performance from Adam Johnson, who ran tirelessly and tormented the Stoke defence throughout.

It was arguably Johnson's best display in a red and white shirt thus far.

It would have been easy for Sunderland to fold following Gardner's dismissal for a challenge on Charlie Adam, but Paolo Di Canio's men held their nerve to respond and grind out a point.

Stoke went into the game chasing a third straight league win having pulled away from the relegation places in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Sunderland boss Di Canio made two changes to his side, drafting in Jack Colback – so impressive against Everton – and James McClean in place of Phil Bardsley and the suspended Stephane Sessegnon.

Larsson had an early half-chance when he scythed a shot over the bar from the edge of the box after Alfred N'Diaye knocked a deep corner back into his path.

But the Black Cats were behind inside the opening 10 minutes as Stoke cashed in from their first corner of the game.

Walters got his head on a dangerous delivery six yards out, and though his initial effort was blocked by Danny Graham, the Stoke man reacted quickly to lash the loose ball in off the underside of the bar.

The goal was Stoke's first at the Stadium of Light since March 2007 and their first ever in the Barclays Premier League.

Sunderland looked to respond and James McClean saw a shot deflected onto the roof of the net, but Stoke looked happy to sit on their lead and frustrate the hosts going forward.

Johnson did open up some space just after the 20-minute mark when some neat skill took him beyond Adam, but his powerful drive was just a little too high and cleared the crossbar.

Sunderland's hopes of getting back in the game took a severe blow just after the half-hour as Gardner saw red.

The midfielder went in for a 50-50 challenge with Adam but mistimed the tackle, making contact with his opponent's ankle instead.

A melee ensued, ending with referee Mr Mason handing Gardner his marching orders with Larsson booked for dissent.

Now the hosts were really up against it and Cameron Jerome wasted a good chance in the latter stages of the opening period, nodding Adam's driven cross tamely wide when well placed.

Sunderland, meanwhile, came close to a stoppage-time equaliser through Johnson, whose low free-kick skimmed just beyond Asmir Begovic's far post.

The former Manchester City winger was looking like Sunderland's likeliest threat and he energised the crowd with a scintillating run ten minutes after the break.

Johnson's quick feet and pace took him past three Stoke players, but his low drive from just outside the box was well watched by Begovic, who gathered down low.

O'Shea thought he'd grabbed an equaliser on the hour when he fired a loose ball goalwards on the turn following a corner, but the effort was hacked off the line having beaten an unsighted Stoke keeper.

The opening eked out some valuable momentum, although Simon Mignolet had to be alert to grab Steven N'Zonzi's rising drive away to his right moments later.

But that priceless equaliser did arrive just moments later – and it was skipper O'Shea leading the way.

A Larsson corner was inadvertently flicked on by Dean Whitehead, and O'Shea – stationed at the back post – managed to hook his foot around the ball and divert it back through the legs of Begovic and in.

It was a crucial intervention by the Republic of Ireland international, who did well to get a clean contact on the ball and guide it beyond a crowd of players and through the tightest of gaps on the line.

The tireless ten men cranked up the tempo despite their numerical disadvantage, with the game becoming increasingly stretched as the hosts took risks to try and get forward.

Mignolet came up trumps again with 15 minutes to play, getting his body behind Whitehead's blast through a crowd of players and then dropping on the loose ball under pressure, with Stoke forwards sniffing around.

Rose almost grabbed what would have been a sensational winner 10 minutes from time, cutting in off the right wing and unleashing a low shot which struck the outside of Begovic's right-hand post and spun wide.

And just a minute later Johnson supplied a teasing centre across the face of goal, but Graham couldn't quite connect and McClean, sneaking in at the back post, couldn't settle the ball down to get a clean shot away.

N'Zonzi cleared the crossbar with an acrobatic effort at the other end, while David Vaughan shot wide in a breathless final few minutes.

Johnson's efforts were summed up by a standing ovation from the home fans when he was substituted late on – the winger instrumental as Sunderland picked up what could be an important point.

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Team Sheet

Mignolet
22
O'Shea
16
Red Gardner
8
Rose
3
Yellow Cuéllar
24
Yellow Larsson (Vaughan)
7
McClean
23
Colback
14
N'Diaye
4
Johnson (Bardsley)
21
Graham
9
Begovic
1
Shawcross
17
Wilson (Cameron)
12
Shotton
30
Huth
4
Adam (Etherington)
16
N'Zonzi Yellow
15
Walters
19
Whitehead Yellow
18
Crouch (Jones)
25
Jerome
33

Substitutes

Kilgallon
12
Marrs
29
Vaughan
15
Mangane
18
Bardsley
2
Westwood
20
Mandron
30
Sørensen
29
Cameron
2
Owen
10
Etherington
26
Kightly
21
Palacios
8
Jones
9