Advocaat says everything to play for in survival battle
Stoke City 1 Sunderland 1
Sunderland head coach Dick Advocaat delved deep to find signs of hope from a hard-earned away point and insists that "everything is open" in the battle to avoid relegation.
However, with his side slipping into the bottom three and away games at Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea to come in their last five fixtures, Premier League survival looks like a daunting task.
The Wearsiders withstood heavy Stoke pressure for long periods to win only their 10th point in 2015 but, with both Leicester and Hull gaining crucial away wins they now have only Queens Park Rangers and Burnley below them in the table.
Adam Johnson did not travel with the squad after being charged with child sex offences, Advocaat deciding he was not ready to be included after missing three days of training.
Advocaat did his best to present an optimistic outlook despite the pressure mounting on him, drawing solace from the number of chances his side created, even though their only goal came from a mistake by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic at the start of a first half in which they could have conceded three or four.
"I am pleased because in the first half we played very poorly and we were lucky that it stayed 1-1 until half-time," he said.
"We had some problems picking up players but we made some changes for the second half and we created three or four good opportunities. But at this level you have to score because you don't get more than four or five in a game."
Sunderland were handed their gift after 58 seconds as Begovic allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp after a low cross by Will Buckley from the right appeared to have been under his control, Connor Wickham scoring from close range.
But Stoke deservedly levelled the scores when Charlie Adam delivered the finishing touch to a fine move with a thunderous shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Sunderland changed effectively to 4-2-4, with Jordi Gomez and Defoe in the wide positions, Danny Graham and Wickham operating through the middle. The difference was marked. Chances appeared for Gomez and Defoe and only an heroic block by Ryan Shawcross then denied Wickham before Billy Jones, the right-back, burst through the middle to be thwarted by Begovic.
But Stoke finished the stronger. Adam's free-kick found Mame Biram Diouf unmarked at the far post and only Pantilimon's save prevented a goal. Then Adam launched a blistering shot from 25 yards that Pantilimon turned wide. (© Daily Telegraph, London)