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Sunderland draw a blank


Connor Wickham, centre, headed a great chance over the bar for Sunderland

Connor Wickham, centre, headed a great chance over the bar for Sunderland

Connor Wickham, centre, headed a great chance over the bar for Sunderland

Connor Wickham passed up a glorious opportunity to claim a first Barclays Premier League win of the season for Sunderland over 10-man Swansea.

The unmarked striker was picked out by Sebastian Larsson six yards from goal with 16 minutes of a tight contest remaining, but sent his header wastefully over the bar to let the Swans off the hook as the Black Cats had to settle for their fifth draw in six league outings to date.

In a game of few clear-cut chances, the home side enjoyed the better of them with keeper Lukasz Fabianski having to be at his best before the break.

But apart from Wickham's chance and late efforts from Larsson and substitute Steven Fletcher, goalmouth action was at a premium and Swansea, who had full-back Angel Rangel sent off for a second bookable offence nine minutes from time, banked a point on a day when they were far from at their best in front of a crowd of 41,325 at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet had expressed his admiration for the Welsh side's approach and predicted a difficult afternoon for his players.

But his tactical plan, designed to frustrate the visitors, worked well in the opening 45 minutes and Garry Monk's men could not muster a single attempt on target despite enjoying sustained periods of possession.

Indeed, it was the Black Cats who created all the better chances in the first half, forcing Fabianski to earn his money with a series of important saves.

Adam Johnson was first to call upon the Poland international when he met Wickham's 12th-minute flick on beyond the far post and drilled in a half-volley from a tight angle which Fabianski did well to turn away.

The keeper had to sprint from his line four minutes later to prevent Will Buckley from latching on to Larsson's through-ball with Sunderland finding their stride.

Swansea were prospering out wide with Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge seeing plenty of the ball as Jonjo Shelvey and Gylfi Sigurdsson kept the supply lines open.

But they were able to create little of note with Dyer twice failing to come anywhere near hitting the target after working himself into promising positions.

By contrast, Sigurdsson had to get in an important 35th-minute block to repel Lee Cattermole's well-struck volley, and Fabianski was very nearly caught out by Santiago Vergini's looping header seconds later, eventually throwing out a hand to turn it away at the last minute.

Swans striker Bafetimbi Gomis fired tamely high and wide five minutes before the break after turning marker John O'Shea, but Sunderland keeper Vito Mannone headed for the dressing room having not had a save to make.

Ki Sung-yueng blazed high over the bar four minutes after the restart with the Welsh side increasing their tempo, and there was an anxious moment for Vergini seconds later when he stuck out a leg as Routledge went past him into the box and went to ground, although referee Chris Foy was unmoved.

Mannone was called upon for the first time with 57 minutes gone to keep out Sigurdsson's dipping effort from distance, but did so with little discomfort.

The game became increasingly physical as it wore on with Ashley Williams and Wickham in particular becoming embroiled in a wrestling match.

Poyet looked to inject fresh impetus by replacing Johnson with Ricky Alvarez with 24 minutes remaining, and the Argentinian had an immediate impact as he targeted full-back Neil Taylor and covering midfielder Routledge.

It was the Black Cats turn to look in vain to Mr Foy after Wickham appeared to be dragged to the ground inside the box by central defender Federico Fernandez with 68 minutes gone with time fast running out.

They came agonisingly close to snatching the lead three minutes later when Buckley slipped past Fernandez and drove the ball across goal, where Taylor did just enough to prevent Wickham making contact in front of a gaping goal.

But the former Ipswich striker was guilty of a glaring 74th-minute miss when he met Larsson's cross unopposed, but powered his header harmlessly over the bar.

With Rangel having departed after bring down Buckley to earn his second yellow card, Fabianski plucked Larsson's 83rd-minute free-kick from under his crossbar and Fletcher headed a cross from the impressive Alvarez just wide seconds later, but the visitors stood firm.

PA Media