Sunderland 0 Crystal Palace 0

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Black Cats held to goalless draw on Wearside.

Sunderland were held to a goalless draw in a battle of attrition against Crystal Palace on Wearside.

Gus Poyet's side dominated the game for long spells but couldn't break through, with Fabio Borini coming close in both halves.

His spectacular overhead kick ended an opening period which saw the hosts well on top, while the on-loan Liverpool man also rattled the crossbar eight minutes from the end.

Meanwhile Jozy Altidore was denied by a good second-half save from Palace keeper Julian Speroni as the Black Cats battled manfully but just couldn't turn their dominance into goals.

They were the better side for much of the game - clocking up nearly 70% of the possession in the first half - but there was no way through a Palace team who have conceded the joint second-fewest goals of any side outside the top eight.

Head coach Poyet saw his side return to league action for the first time in almost a month and re-introduced Liam Bridcutt in place of Lee Cattermole, with Jack Colback also dropping to the bench to accommodate Steven Fletcher.

The remainder of the team was otherwise the same which started the Capital One Cup final, with Wembley goalscorer Borini out on the left in support of Fletcher up front.

And it was Fletcher – making his first home start since early January – who had the first chance of the game four minutes in, nodding wide from Seb Larsson's free-kick.

The hosts made a positive start with Marcos Alonso seeing a powerful drive saved by Speroni while both Ki and Wes Brown fired wide, the latter after Adam Johnson's cross was deflected into his path.

Meanwhile Fletcher couldn't quite turn a Borini pull-back goalwards, while Johnson blasted a first-time effort off-target after Alonso had done well to chase down a seemingly lost cause and pull the ball back across the box.

Sunderland continued to press, with Fletcher just crowded out by the Palace defence as he looked to get on the end of Borini's excellent 36th-minute delivery.

And the hosts' best chance of the first half fell to the Italian just before the break – his spectacular overhead kick dropping just wide after Thomas Ince succeeded only in slicing an attempted clearance back across his own penalty area.

Fletcher made way for Altidore at half time having appeared to pick up a knock in the latter stages of the first half, and the American almost opened the scoring with one of his first touches.

Twisting and turning to protect the ball inside the box, he fired a rising drive goalwards only for Speroni to produce a fine save, getting a hand to the shot to deflect the effort over the bar.

Borini then volleyed over from Bridcutt's clever cross, while at the other end Mannone – who had little to do – kept his concentration well to gather a powerful drive from Yannick Bolasie.

But there was just no way through for Sunderland against a well-drilled Palace outfit, with Poyet introducing Craig Gardner for Larsson just after the hour as the hosts looked for a break.

They came agonisingly close to a winner eight minutes from time. Borini found himself in space to the right of goal and beat Speroni with a rising drive, but the ball came back off the crossbar instead of nestling in the back of the net.

The loose ball eventually worked its way back to the Italian, whose effort through a crowd of players whistled just over the top.

With Sunderland throwing players forward, Palace looked to attack into the gaps and gave the hosts a couple of nervous moments late on, most notably when Kagisho Dikgacoi's angled drive flashed just past the far post.

The hosts looked to mount a renewed push in five minutes of stoppage time, but the breakthrough wouldn't come as the sides took a point apiece.

SAFC's tweets

Sunderland AFC
Crystal Palace

Team Sheet

Mannone
25
Yellow Brown
5
Bardsley
2
Alonso
28
O'Shea
16
Ki
4
Yellow Bridcutt
26
Yellow Larsson (Gardner)
7
Borini
31
Johnson (Scocco)
11
Fletcher (Altidore)
9
Speroni
1
Ward Yellow
2
Delaney Yellow
27
Dann
6
Mariappa Yellow
3
Ledley
28
Bolasie (Puncheon)
7
Jedinak
15
Dikgacoi Yellow
8
Murray (Jerome)
17
Ince (Guédioura)
11

Substitutes

Yellow Gardner
8
Colback
14
Vergini
27
Altidore
17
Ustari
32
Scocco
30
Cattermole
33
Jerome
30
Guédioura
31
Hennessey
26
Thomas
14
Puncheon
13
McCarthy
5
Gayle
16