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Match Report: Sunderland 0-0 Crystal Palace - Cats Frustrated by Eagles

Sunderland dominated most of the game but could only secure a point in a scrappy affair with fellow strugglers Crystal Palace.

Ian Horrocks

Sunderland came into this knowing they needed to win the home games against fellow strugglers but were frustrated by a Crystal Palace side who kept 11 men behind the ball for most of the game and were content to make it a scrappy game.

Gus Poyet made seven changes from the team who started at Hull City, with Vito Mannone, Marcos Alonso, Wes Brown, Liam Bridcutt, Ki Sung-Yueng, Adam Johnson and Fabio Borini returning to the side and those changes appeared to be for the better as Sunderland started much the better of the two sides, with Palace pushed back and the home side looking to keep up a quick tempo.

As Sunderland attacked down the wings, both visiting full backs, Adrian Mariappa and Joel Ward, were booked early on after struggling to contain the home sides attacks but despite both walking a tightrope, the home side couldn't take advantage and neither looked likely of picking up a second booking.

As the half went on, Sunderland struggled to keep the early tempo up and despite continuing to control the game couldn't find a way of testing Julian Speroni, with Crystal Palace and the referee helping to break up play with continual fouls and soft free-kicks, usually committed by Mile Jedinak,  it quickly appeared as if it was going to be a huge struggle to break down the away side.

So it proved, with only occasional half-chances in the first half to show for our 70% possession. Steven Fletcher tried to back-heel a Borini shot-cum-cross but barely made contact and it was quickly cleared, then Ki hit a volley first time from the edge of the box after a headed clearance but flew comfortably wide of Speroni's left hand post. Borini came closest to scoring in the first half but his scissor-kick after a poor Tom Ince clearance flew just wide.

The home side did have a scare when Mannone slipped when he attempted a clearance but he quickly recovered to save Ince's shot but, that aside, Palace barely crossed the half-way line in the first half.

Jozy Altidore came on at the break after Fletcher picked up a knock late in the first half and Sunderland tested Speroni within a minute of the restart when Borini's header from a Johnson cross but despite the visiting goalkeeper making a good save, the assistant referee's flag was up for offside, which was the correct call.

Wes Brown played a few good balls over the top of Palace defence during the match, usually to Alonso, but in the 50th minute an exquisite ball over the top found Altidore, who had a poor first touch when well placed to score but he recovered enough to get a shot off that Speroni did well to save.

The home side came close to breaking the deadlock twice in the space of a minute with less than 10 minutes left on the clock, with both chances falling to Borini. First the Italian striker smashed a shot against the crossbar and when Sunderland recovered the ball, he held off a defender on the edge of the box and fired a shot narrowly over the bar with Speroni beaten.

As the game entered the final stages, Sunderland got increasingly scrappy and stretched and allowed Palace a few chances. First substitute Adlene Guedioura fired wide from a free-kick after Brown gave away a silly foul on the edge of the box and then Kagisho Dikgacoi really should have won it for Pulis' side but he could only fire wide after finding space on the corner of the Sunderland six-yard box.

Despite five minutes of stoppage time being added, we could find no way through the visiting defence and had to settle for a point. Whether one point will be enough come the end of the season remains to be seen but whatever happens, this will be seen as a hugely disappointing game and two vital points dropped.

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