Jack Colback’s deflected effort at the death rescued an unlikely point for basement club Sunderland at managerless Cardiff City. Goals from Fraizer Campbell and Jordon Mutch looked to have won a relegation six-pointer for the hosts. Steven Fletcher came off the bench to score the first of two late strikes for the Black Cats, however.
Referee Chris Foy booked Mutch in the first minute for a dive in the area when Sunderland centre back Valentin Roberge pulled out of a tackle. Mutch then headed over from Craig Noone’s centre as Cardiff started strongly.
With five minutes played the hosts went ahead. Campbell set Mutch away and his 20-yard shot deflected past Vito Mannone off Modibo Diakite. The Black Cats keeper then had to claw over from Korean midfielder Kim.
Mannone was almost caught out on 25 minutes when Peter Whittingham curled a free kick to the near post. The Italian got down low and parried the effort away. Campbell then saw a diving header fly wide from Mutch’s centre as the Bluebirds dominated.
Craig Noone then stung the palms of Mannone before Sunderland spurned their only clear cut opportunity. Ki Sung-Yueng’s shot took a nick off Steven Caulker, so David Marshall could only parry, but Jozy Altidore screwed the rebound wide at close quarters.
Fabio Borini brought two plunging stops out of Marshall before half time as the Black Cats showed more intent, but went in behind. Gus Poyet changed formation in response to this, going 4-4-2 with Fletcher on for the second half.
Borini was the player brought off after being taken ill. He subsequently collapsed and then rushed to hospital. Sunderland fell further behind before the hour as Mutch danced past three defenders and squared for Campbell to fire home.
Cardiff reasserted control by doubling their lead, but faced a nervy ending as Fletcher pulled one back for the Black Cats seven minutes from time. Scotland striker Fletcher slid in from Emanuele Giaccherini’s cross.
A grandstand finish followed with sub Colback firing wide for Poyet. Marshall also saved from Fletcher and Valentin Roberge’s back post volley. Just when it looked like the Bluebirds had done enough, Colback stole a point for Sunderland with a deflected effort.
Vincent Tan’s decision to sack Malky Mackay may yet determine their fate. This was two points dropped for Cardiff, leaving them where they were when the day began – behind West Brom on goal difference. Poyet’s Black Cats inch closer to safety.
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This article was first posted on December 28, 2013