Sunderland 1-1 Stoke

Jon Walters

Ten-man Sunderland fought back from a goal behind to draw with Stoke and claim a vital point in their battle to stay in the Premier League.

Jonathan Walters gave Stoke an early lead when he pounced to score a rebound following Charlie Adam's corner.

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Sunderland deserved more - Di Canio

And the hosts were reduced to 10 men later in the first half after Craig Gardner's dangerous lunge on Adam.

However, John O'Shea equalised, firing the ball home from five yards out after a Sebastian Larsson set-piece.

The hosts had a late chance to snatch all three points when Danny Rose shot from the edge of the penalty area, but it clipped the outside of the post.

Sunderland, woeful in the first half, showed their character to fight back and secure a draw after Walters's early goal and Gardner's red card had left them facing their 17th league defeat of the season.

However, a goal from captain O'Shea, only his second for the club, was enough to take the Black Cats up to 15th, three points above Wigan who occupy the final relegation place.

While the Potters missed out on only their third away league win of the season, they still lifted themselves up to 41 points, six clear of the bottom three.

After Sunderland were thrashed 6-1 at Aston Villa last Monday, manager Paolo Di Canio had expected a response, knowing a victory could have moved his side up six places in the Premier League table.

Before the match, 11 of the 12 Sunderland players who were involved in their shock 1-0 FA Cup final win against Leeds 40 years ago were paraded to the Stadium of Light crowd, but the celebrations did not last long.

Poor marking from Adam's ninth-minute corner allowed Walters a free header and although it was blocked by Danny Graham, the rebound fell kindly to the Republic of Ireland international, who blasted the ball in off the underside of the crossbar.

With 11-goal top scorer Steven Fletcher out for the season with an ankle injury and Stephane Sessegnon suspended after his dismissal at Villa Park, Sunderland lacked creativity, were reduced to speculative long-range shots and struggled to find a way past an imposing Stoke defence.

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'Fortunate' point pleases Pulis

The hosts' cause was not helped by Gardner's 34th minute dismissal, although the midfielder could have few complaints following a reckless challenge on Adam, who was lucky not to suffer a serious injury.

However, motivated by the enthusiastic Di Canio, who constantly shouted instructions at his team, Sunderland responded well in the second half, with winger Adam Johnson an instrumental figure.

O'Shea's goal, coming after Stoke failed to deal with Larsson's corner, was a deserved equaliser and turned the match with the home side looking the more likely to get a winner.

The only negative for the hosts was another blank night for striker Graham, who has now failed to score in his 11 appearances for the Black Cats since joining in a £5m move from Swansea at the end of January.

But Sunderland's relegation fears were nearly eased late on when Rose's shot scraped the outside of the post as Stoke ended up relieved to escape with a point.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis:

"It was a hard-earned point, we knew it would be hard.

"You have to give Sunderland a lot of credit, they played with a lot of spirit and we are pleased to get a point to get to 41 points. It's one of those funny seasons when everything is not sorted out yet.

"We're disappointed not to take the three points which would have made us safe but we are 11th in the Premier League with two games to go. We can still finish in the top half."

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