Sport Soccer

Friday 20 April 2018

Aiden McGeady misses penalty as late Norwich goal denies Sunderland a huge win in their fight for survival

Aiden McGeady. Photo: Sportsfile
Aiden McGeady. Photo: Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Sunderland's hopes of avoiding relegation from the Sky Bet Championship suffered a massive blow as they conceded an 89th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Norwich.

Leading through George Honeyman's second-half strike, the Black Cats looked like claiming what would have been a first home win since mid-January.

However, Norwich defender Ivo Pinto struck with one minute left to leave Chris Coleman's side six points adrift of safety with just four games remaining.

The Black Cats missed a penalty, with Aiden McGeady firing a first-half spot-kick against the post, although Norwich also struck the woodwork twice in an entertaining affair.

Sunderland went into the game knowing they needed a victory to have a realistic chance of avoiding the drop, and Coleman's side almost claimed the lead after just 10 seconds.

Ashley Fletcher drilled in a fierce low effort after breaking towards the edge of the area, but Norwich goalkeeper Angus Gunn got down well to turn the ball around the post.

The visitors are one of the few Championship sides with precious little to play for in the final month of the season, but they did not lack for effort in the early stages as they carved out a succession of chances.

Mario Vrancic shot over from 20 yards after the impressive James Maddison pulled the ball back into his path, and Nelson Oliveira forced Lee Camp into his first save of the night after cutting in from the left-hand side.

That was only a half-chance, but Oliveira wasted a much better opportunity midway through the first half as he somehow failed to convert Maddison's inviting cross. The striker looked certain to score as he slid in on the edge of the six-yard box, but he failed to make any contact with the goal seemingly at his mercy.

That was a let-off for Sunderland, and they were fortunate again two minutes later as Oliveira's header from Maddison's corner struck the right-hand post, having beaten Honeyman, who was stationed on the line.

The Black Cats threatened as Lynden Gooch side-footed wide from 12 yards, but Norwich returned to the front foot and Josh Murphy lofted the ball over the crossbar as he raced on to Maddison's through ball and chipped the onrushing Camp.

Both defences were wide open for much of the evening, but Sunderland wasted a golden opportunity to claim the lead five minutes before the break. Grant Hanley chopped down Fletcher in the area, but McGeady drilled the resultant penalty against the base of the right-hand post.

With the fog rolling in, visibility became an issue in the second half, but Oliveira will have been able to see clearly enough to know he should have given Norwich the lead shortly before the hour mark.

Vrancic played the striker into space after stealing the ball off McGeady, but Oliveira curled wide of the left-hand post.

Maddison missed an even better opportunity two minutes later, side-footing against the post from no more than three yards after Oliveira slid a low cross across the face of the box.

It was an extremely costly error, as Sunderland claimed the lead just four minutes later. McGeady struck the post for a second time as he drilled in a low shot from 20 yards, but Honeyman was perfectly positioned to tap home the rebound from inside the six-yard box.

The Black Cats almost saw the game out, but Pinto struck with one minute left. Hanley nodded Maddison's free-kick to the full-back, and he swept home a low finish from close range.

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