Sunderland 1 Newcastle Utd 1
DEMBA BA spared Sunderland’s blushes after the Newcastle striker’s own goal handed the Black Cats a priceless late derby leveller.
Martin O’Neill’s men were staring at defeat against the 10 man Magpies after Yohan Cabaye’s goal inside the first three minutes had put the visitors on course for a second successive victory at the Stadium of Light.
Cheik Tiote’s straight red card for a high challenge on Steven Fletcher midway through the first half handed Sunderland the advantage, yet the hosts were unable to make their man advantage count.
Sunderland were too static and were unable to test Tim Krul, yet they notched an equaliser with five minutes to go when John O’Shea’s header deflected off Ba into the net.
O’Neill resisted the temptation to recall the fit-again Phil Bardsley, who was on the bench, and persisted with the starting XI which lost 3-0 at Manchester City in the last outing before the international break.
Counterpart Alan Pardew opted to start with Sunderland’s derby nemesis Shola Ameobi, rather than Papiss Demba Cisse, while fit-again Fabricio Coloccini and Tim Krul were both included in the side.
It was Newcastle who struck first inside the first three minutes after Danny Rose, under pressure from Hatem Ben Arfa, gave a sloppy pass on the halfway line towards James McClean.
Danny Simpson collected it and played it back down the right to Ben Arfa who found Ameobi down the right-hand channel.
Ameobi’s shot across goal was pushed away by the feet of Simon Mignolet, but fell straight into the path of Yohan Cabaye, 15 yards out, who swept it low into the far corner.
Sunderland responded positively, but without testing Krul and it was the Magpies who mustered the next shot on target in the 21st minute when Cabaye’s free-kick from 25 yards was tipped over the top by Mignolet.
But Newcastle were reduced to 10 men three minutes later when Cheik Tiote was perhaps harshly handed a straight red card.
Referee Martin Atkinson had already awarded Newcastle a foul for Jack Colback’s pressure on Tiote’s shoulder, but then the Ivorian crashed high into Steven Fletcher and was immediately dismissed.
Sunderland finally mustered their first effort on goal just after the half-hour mark, Rose’s cross from the left-hand by-line skidding to Adam Johnson on the far post, who tried to make himself a yard and then curled a left-footed shot wide of the top corner.
Craig Gardner then tried his luck in the 35th minute with a low, skidding free-kick from 30 yards which drifted inches wide of the far post.
With Newcastle on the back foot, Pardew made a change – withdrawing Ameobi and replacing him with James Perch, leaving Demba Ba on his own up front.
The Magpies were a still threat though. Cabaye’s low free-kick from the right in the 41st minute was dummied to Coloccini on the edge of the area.
The Argentine’s low shot was deflected into the path of Ba, six yards out, who sent an acrobatic volley over the top.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Newcastle 1
Sunderland were unable to begin the second half in a positive tone, with Martin O’Neill’s men too static and lacking urgency as they continued their inability to test Krul.
The Black Cats finally produced a meaningful effort in the 69th minute, Larsson dragging a 25-yard free-kick wide of the near post.
Newcastle endured a brief moment of concern two minutes later when McClean’s drilled shot from the left was spilled by Krul before the Dutch stopper recovered to grasp at the second attempt despite the efforts of Sunderland substitute Louis Saha.
Moments later, Newcastle almost secured a match-winning second when Ba controlled Cabaye’s ball over the top but couldn’t get a decisive touch to knock it beyond Mignolet.
Saha had a golden chance to level with eight minutes to go when Larsson’s corner from the left was flicked on at the near post by McClean.
The ball fell invitingly to Saha in space on the back post, but the Frenchman couldn’t adjust his feet and crashed a right-foot volley into the side netting.
But it was a set piece which was to provide Sunderland’s leveller with five minutes to go when Larsson curled in a a free-kick from the right wing which was flicked off the head of John O’Shea, onto Ba before nestling in the Newcastle net with Krul wrong-footed.
McClean then went close to a winner in the 89th minute with a right-footed drive from the right-hand side of the area that just drifted wide of the far post.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 1 Newcastle 1
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea, Rose, Johnson (Vaughan 83), Colback, Larsson, McClean, Sessegnon (Saha 65), Fletcher. Subs: Bardsley, Westwood, Campbell, Kilgallon, Vaughan, Meyler
NEWCASTLE: Krul, Simpson, Coloccini (Taylor 80), Williamson, Santon, Gutierrez, Tiote, Cabaye, Ben Arfa (Obertan 84), Sh Ameobi (Perch 39), Ba. Subs: Anita, Cisse, Ferguson, Harper. Sent off: Tiote (24). Booked: Coloccini (69), Williamson (84), Cabaye (86)