Sunderland 1-1 Birmingham City
Sunderland were held at home by Birmingham City, despite facing ten men for the final 23 minutes.
Chris Coleman’s side failed to make it back to back wins at the Stadium of Light and drop back into the relegation zone in the Championship.
Lewis Grabban notched again, cancelling out Sam Gallagher’s opener - both goals came in a lively first half.
Gallagher became the villain for the Blues, picking up two needless bookings in the second half, but Sunderland faltered showing little quality against ten men.
Steve Cotterill and City remain bottom of England’s second tier.
Sunderland started the half well, but the visitors grew in confidence and began to gain a foothold in the game, creating the first great chance at the ten minute mark.
Ex-Black Cat Craig Gardner’s corner was flicked on by Jonathan Grounds inside Suderland’s six yard box, but the fullback’s header was parried away by Robin Ruiter at close range.
Minutes later Grabban wasted a great opportunity to break the deadlock. The 29-year-old couldn’t quite convert Donald Love’s excellent driven cross. Grabban was unmarked six yards out and tried to toe poke home - he’d have been better placed to finish with his left.
Sunderland then conceded a soft opener in the 16th minute.
George Honeyman gave the ball away cheaply in midfield and Sunderland failed to deal with a speculative lofted ball forward. Gallagher got goal-side of Marc Wilson who recovered to block Gallagher’s first effort, but the frontman was first to the loose ball and tapped into an empty net. Ruiter was grounded having dived in an attempt to save the striker’s first shot.
It took the home side five minutes to pull level, with Grabban bagging yet another goal. The forward played a great ball to Love at the back post, who’s volley into the ground fell perfectly to Grabban who tapped home from close range. Grabban showed excellent anticipation ghosting into a great area for an easy finish.
The goal wrestled back momentum for the Wearsiders - James Vaughan let Birmingham off shooting on the turn when he could have released Grabban for a second midway through the first half.
Sunderland’s level of play dropped again, letting the Blues back into the game. Jota took advantage of Wilson’s lack of concentration to race to the byline and pick out Gallagher. His clever back-heel was well saved by Ruiter, who used his feet to deny the striker.
City finished the half the stronger, with Jota pulling the strings. Sunderland had to rely on important last ditch defending from John O’Shea and Tyias Browning to survive a wave of Birmingham attacks.
Sunderland held on til half-time, with a low strike from distance from Jota that was parried away by Ruiter the closest the Blues came to making their dominance count.
Half Time: Sunderland 1-1 Birmingham City (Grabban 21, Gallagher 16)
Birmingham had the first effort of the second half when Gardner narrowly missed blasting a trademark long range strike just over in the 50th minute.
Vaughan was guilty of picking the wrong option again after turning into space. The striker shot wide when driving at the Birmingham defence. David Stockdale looked to have the effort covered which lacked power - Vaughan could have picked out two Sunderland players who had rushed forward to support the former Bury man.
The Blues continued to cause Sunderland problems with a long ball sending Gallagher through on goal again. The striker couldn’t control and was booked for a dive, after he fell past Ruiter, who rushed out of goal in an attempt to stop the Birmingham marksman.
Honeyman nearly put Sunderland ahead - his cross was curling into the top corner, but Stockdale just managed to tip over at full stretch.
The game was evenly poised when Gallagher was dismissed - he picked up his second yellow for a reckless lunge in midfield. He dived in at the shins of Vaughan, a careless challenge considering he was already booked.
Honeyman squandered a big chance - he was well seen by Grabban, but shot wide tamely on his weaker left foot when one on one with Stockdale.
The Mackems never made their advantage count and Birmingham restricted the home side to crosses from bad areas and set pieces. Unfortunatelly, the Black Cats never captalised in a hungover showing after last week’s uplifting display against Fulham.
Full Time: Sunderland 1-1 Birmingham
Robin Ruiter, 7/10: Continues to look nervy, but made two very good first half stops to keep Sunderland in the game.
Adam Matthews, 7/10: Mr reliable, impressed again, simply one of our best defenders and attacking outlets.
John O’Shea, 5/10: Struggled against Gallagher, fortunate others around were there to bail him out.
Tyias Browning, 7/10: The pick of Sunderland’s defenders, provided more excellent last ditch defending when Sunderland were under pressure.
Marc Wilson, 4/10: Poor showing, Jota ran rings around him at times, lucky to play the full 90 minutes.
Donald Love, 6/10: Mixed display. Showed greater attacking quality, but struggled to deal with Boga.
Darron Gibson , 7/10: Another impressive performance in possession, struggled to contain Birmingham’s lively forwards.
Lynden Gooch, 6/10: Maddeningly inconsistent, the American lacks the maturity to play in a midfield two.
George Honeyman, 7/10: Lively display, the forward is flourishing in Coleman’s system.
James Vaughan, 4/10: Poor quality, terrible decision making. Coleman must make sure that he’s better than Josh Maja before putting Vaughan back in the team.
Lewis Grabban, 6/10: Sunderland’s most dangerous player in the first half, was poor in the second, switching off far too often.
(SUB) Josh Maja, 6/10: No late heroics this time, sadly. Should have been introduced sooner.
(SUB) Joel Asoro, 5/10: Struggled to impact the game when introduced.
(SUB) Didier Ndong, 5/10: Didn’t adapt to the pace of the game, made poor decisions, that put his team under pressure.
Man of the Match: Tyias Browning.