Foxes safe after goalless draw
Published 16/05/2015 | 17:21
Nigel Pearson completed his Barclays Premier League rescue mission as Leicester ended their fears of the drop with a 0-0 draw at Sunderland.
The hard-fought point the Foxes collected on Wearside extended their haul to 19 from the last 24 on offer and that, coupled with Hull's defeat at Tottenham, ensured they can relax going into the final week of the campaign.
For Sunderland, however, the wait goes on, although they need a maximum of just one point from trips to Arsenal and Chelsea to be mathematically assured of their place in the top flight next season, although defeat for the Tigers by Manchester United next weekend will do the job for them.
On an afternoon of few clear-cut chances, the home side enjoyed the better of them in front of a crowd of 46,705 at the Stadium of Light, but failed to work City keeper Kasper Schmeichel hard enough to extend their run of victories to three.
However, opposite number Costel Pantilimon enjoyed an equally uneventful afternoon and both Pearson and Dick Advocaat had to make do with a point, an eminently more satisfactory return for the former.
The game represented a meeting of two of the in-from sides in the lower reaches of the table with Sunderland having won their last two and the Foxes looking for a seventh victory in eight attempts to cement a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes.
Predictably, it unfolded in robust fashion with both teams trying to press the ball and giving no quarter in the search for tangible reward.
Advocaat's men started the brighter and might have taken a seventh-minute lead had Schmeichel not got down smartly to his right to turn Sebastian Larsson's dipping free-kick around the post.
However, Leonardo Ulloa was only just unable to reach the ball after Marc Albrighton headed Esteban Cambiasso's cross back across goal two minutes later, and Wes Morgan headed tamely at Pantilimon from Albrighton's 15th-minute cross.
But as the half wore on, it became increasingly scrappy with neither team able to exercise any measure of control and Black Cats midfield duo Liam Bridcutt and Lee Cattermole went into referee Martin Atkinson's notebook as the battle intensified.
The home side were enjoying the better of open play with front three Danny Graham, Jermain Defoe and Connor Wickham all lively, and Graham saw a close-range 24th-minute shot beaten away by Schmeichel.
But with midfielder Riyad Mahrez starting to make his presence felt, City gradually worked their way into the game, although they exerted the greatest pressure from set-pieces without ever actually troubling Pantilimon.
Sunderland full-back Patrick van Aanholt was relieved to see Ulloa's back-heel from Mahrez's 47th-minute cross loop off him and over his own crossbar as Leicester resumed in determined fashion.
But the home side responded and full-back Billy Jones drilled a cross just over Wickham's head after a determined run past Jeff Schlupp down the visitors' left.
As news of goals from Loftus Road and White Hart Lane filtered through, the temperature rose at the Stadium of light and with Adam Johnson having replaced the more defensive Bridcutt, Sunderland full-back Van Aanholt whistled a 62nd-minute shot across the face of goal.
Johnson tested Schmeichel at his near post with a well-struck shot 18 minutes from time, but as time ran down, the tension began to kick in once again.
Cambiasso was handed a chance to put Pantilimon's goal under pressure with 10 minutes left on the clock, but his free-kick flew high and wide, and substitute Steven Fletcher glanced a header just wide from Johnson's 84th-minute free-kick as the deadlock remained unbroken.
Foxes substitute Andrej Kramaric might have won it deep into injury time when he capitalised on a mix-up between skipper John O'Shea and Pantilimon, but with the goal at his mercy, he could not find the target.