Sunderland’s wait for a Stadium of Light win stretched to 20 games as the Black Cats battled back from 2-1 down to earn a point against Millwall.
Review all the action from a dramatic 90 minutes on Wearside below…
TALE OF TWO KEEPERS
It was all about the goalkeepers at the SoL as a topsy-turvy encounter ended all-square. Sunderland drew first blood as Lewis Grabban took advantage of abysmal defending to tuck the ball home from close range, but frustration followed as Robbin Ruiter failed to deal with two George Saville free-kicks and both ended up in the net. Robbie Stockdale’s side produced an instant response following the restart as Adam Matthews’ cross was fumbled into his own net by Jordan Archer, before Grabban’s header was ruled out for a foul. Millwall pressed for a winner in the final 15 minutes and had it not been for Ruiter they may well have found one, but the Dutchman ended a tough day on the right track with a superb save denying Lee Gregory.
Sunderland immediately asserted their authority on the game as fine link-up play from Jonny Williams, Aiden McGeady and Grabban engineered the first attack of the contest. The trio sliced through the Millwall ranks before McGeady’s overhit cross evaded Grabban and Duncan Watmore, but it was a sign of things to come as the Black Cats remained camped in opposition territory. Soon after, John O’Shea almost connected with a header at the near post before Matthews sent Watmore to the byline, but with seven minutes on the clock the Lions almost pounced as Ryan Tunnicliffe’s effort deflected wide.
BLACK CATS SPURN REWARDS
It proved to be little more than a false dawn for Millwall, though, as the Black Cats were rewarded for a dominant opening. Just 60 seconds after McGeady forced Archer into action, the winger’s corner wreaked havoc in the six-yard box as it threatened to loop directly in, but it was Grabban who reacted quickest and he gobbled up the chance to net his ninth league goal in 13 games. Neil Harris could have had few complaints as his side fell behind, but they were handed an instant reprieve as George Saville’s routine free-kick squirmed through Ruiter and over the line.
SAVILLE REPEATS THE FEAT
Just four minutes after gifting the visitors a way back into the game, Ruiter had his head in his hands once more as a second Saville free-kick – from an almost identical position – got the better of him to turn the game on its head. Penalty appeals came next as Watmore darted into the box before tumbling under a challenge from James Meredith, but the referee remained unmoved as play continued. And the frustration only grew, as Watmore failed to find the target at the back post before being forced off before the break. Callum McManaman was his replacement, joining George Honeyman on the pitch after Williams went off injured prior to the Lions’ leveller.
ARCHER ABSENT AGAIN
Stockdale’s men needed a lift and within two minutes of the restart they got one as another goalkeeping howler resulted in the fourth goal of the game. Matthews’ tenacious run down the right looked like fizzling out, but his cross from the byline took the slight nick and ended up in the back of the net, along with Archer who didn’t cover himself in any glory whatsoever. Rejuvenated, the Black Cats sought about finding a third and Grabban thought he’d done exactly that, only for his stooping header to be chalked off for a foul. It looked harsh on the free-scoring frontman but the momentum looked well and truly with the Black Cats’ side heading into the closing stages.
REDEMPTION FOR RUITER
Millwall’s best chance of a winner came with 19 minutes remaining as Gregory turned in the box and saw his effort deflect in the opposite direction, but Ruiter somewhat atoned for his earlier mishaps with a fine one-handed save ensuring parity remained. And Grabban could have won in the final five minutes at the other end, as he failed to connect at the back post. Ty Browning returned from injury in the closing stages but it looked like another injury blow for the Black Cats as Marc Wilson limped off, with plenty to be determined both on and off the pitch heading into a week on the road.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Matthews, O’Shea, Wilson (Browning 82), Oviedo, Cattermole, McNair, Williams (Honeyman 14), Watmore (McManaman 43), McGeady, Grabban.
Subs not used: Steele, Rodwell, Vaughan, Gibson.
Millwall: Archer, McLaughlin (Thompson, 90), Meredith, Hutchinson, Gregory (Onyedinma 73), Ferguson, Tunnicliffe, Elliott (Morison 71), O’Brien, Saville, Cooper.
Subs not used: King, Craig, Romeo, Twardek.