Sunderland vs. Stoke City: Final score 1-1, Black Cats fight back to earn point

Stu Forster

Some poor set piece defending and a first half red card for Craig Gardner had Stoke up early, but Sunderland fought back to earn an equalizer in the second half.

Stoke City are not quite 100 percent out of the relegation battle, while Sunderland have done themselves only a minor favor. A 0-0 draw would have been a predictable result before the match, and while it didn't quite work out that way, the distribution of points did. A couple of cases of poor defending and lucky deflections led to set piece goals for each team in a 1-1 draw.

Jonathan Walters got Stoke off to a brilliant start by converting on a corner in the 9th minute, taking advantage of a rebound opportunity. He made good contact with a header off a beautiful delivery by Charlie Adam, but his effort hit a Sunderland player. Some good fortune caused the ball to bounce back to his feet, and he put his follow-up effort into the roof of the net.

Sunderland looked to be done for in the 34th minute when Craig Gardner picked up a straight red card, putting the Black Cats down a man as well as a goal. He went in late and over the ball on a challenge with Adam, making contact with the Stoke midfielder with his studs, high on the shin. Lee Mason didn't have to think at all about sending off Gardner, who will join his teammate Stephane Sessegnon on the sidelines, suspended for the rest of the season.

The first half ended without Sunderland putting up much of a fight, and it took 10 minutes for them to show any life in the second half. Adam Johnson went on a marauding run though the midfield and forced Asmir Begovic into a save, seemingly sparking his team to life.

They found their equalizer in the 64th minute, predictably on a corner, though they needed a bit of luck to score just like Stoke. Dean Whitehead jumped up to try to clear a Larsson corner at the near post, but mistimed his jump and ended up providing an excellent flick-on for John O'Shea. The Sunderland defender reacted faster than Ryan Shawcross did and poked in a goal at the far post.

Both sides were a bit dire after that, seemingly content with a draw. Danny Rose hit the post from just outside the penalty area in the 80th minute, but that would be the only real chance for either team between O'Shea's goal in the end of the match. Stoke are probably safe from the drop on 41 points, while Sunderland sit on 38, three points ahead of Wigan, who have a game in hand. Sunderland have the much stronger goal differential, minus-12 to Wigan's minus-22.

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