Premier League - Sunderland and Palace's relegation clash ends in stalemate

Premier League, Stadium of Light - Sunderland 0 - 0 Crystal Palace

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Premier League - Gardner heading for Sunderland exit door
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Sunderland celebrate Craig Gardner's goal against Southampton (Reuters)

It was billed as a classic relegation six-pointer, but Sunderland and Crystal Palace shared two points and little changed at the foot of the Premier League.

This was a scrappy affair befitting of a bottom of the table dust-up. There were niggly fouls and clumsy tussles galore as eight yellow cards were brandished by referee Neil Swarbrick.

Sunderland dominated the game, looking to attack down the flanks with Marcos Alonso bombing forward down the left and Adam Johnson and Phil Bardsley linking up nicely on the right. They failed to muster many clear-cut chances, though, and were reduced mainly to ambitious attempts on goal and a few half-hearted penalty appeals.

Both sides might have snatched it in the final ten minutes. For Sunderland, Borini sent a powerful shot against the upright and saw a curling effort fly inches over the bar in the space of a minute.

Kagisho Dikgacoi then spurned a glorious chance for Palace, lashing wide when the ball fell to him inside the box.

In a game in which there was so much at stake, you sense that ‘not losing’ was the priority, which resulted in a clear lack of ambition. Neither side made a significant stride towards safety today, but both averted disaster and the relegation scrap continues.

KEY MOMENTS

39’ – PENALTY APPEAL: Controversy as Johnson's shot falls to Bardsley, who goes down under pressure from Palace defenders. The referee decides he fell on the ball rather than being brought down and gives a free-kick to Palace.

81’ – AGAINST THE WOODWORK: Two chances in a minute for Borini! First he hits the upright with a powerful shot before curling one from the edge of the box which goes inches over the bar. So close for Sunderland.

88’ – GOLDEN CHANCE: What a chance for Palace to steal it! It's scrappy but the ball falls to Dikgacoi in the box who lashes just wide. He really should have scored.

KEY STATS

Sunderland have won just one of their last seven home games in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace have scored just 19 league goals, the lowest of all sides in the top four divisions.

Sunderland are the lowest scorers at home in the league with just 13 goals at the Stadium of Light.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND PLAYER RATINGS

TALKING POINT

So much for the 'decisive' six pointer: This game was meant to be decisive in the fight for survival. Neither side, though, shook off the fear of defeat or showed the courage needed to seize the three points. You wonder whether ambition or conservatism will be the winning attitude in this relegation scrap.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Adam Johnson (Sunderland): In a game which was so scrappy, tense and awash with fouls, it is difficult to pick out a star player. Johnson looked very lively for Sunderland, providing skilful touches and linking up regularly with Phil Bardsley to create chances down the right hand side. He’ll be a key figure in Sunderland’s fight to stay up.

PLAYER RATINGS

Sunderland: Mannone 7, Bardsley 7, Alonso 7, O'Shea (c) 6, Brown 6, Bridcutt 6, Ki 6, Larsson 5, Johnson 8, Borini 7, Fletcher 5 ... Subs: Gardner 5, Altidore 5, Scocco 5.

Crystal Palace: Speroni 7, Mariappa 5, Dann 5, Delaney 6, Ward 6, Bolasie 6, Digkacoi 5, Jedinak 5, Ledley 6, Ince 5, Murray 4... Subs: Guedioura 5, Puncheon 4, Jerome 5.

MATCH IN A TWEET

Six-pointer becomes two-pointer

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