Sunderland produced a superb, battling performance to draw 0-0 against Tottenham Hotspur at the Stadium of Light.
It wasn’t enough to drag them out of the relegation zone, but will have given David Moyes’ side hope for the rest of the season.
Here’s what we learned from the stalemate:
Sunderland had to cling on but what a precious point
The first half had been a fine contest, Spurs seeing most of the ball but Sunderland creating plenty of chances in what was a well balanced 5-3-2. By the end, they were flagging, struggling to keep hold of the ball and coming under stern pressure. There only looked likely to be one winner but the Black Cats, to their immense credit, dug in and landed a very valuable and unexpected point.
It is bitterly frustrating that on a night when Sunderland tightened up at the back and showed real resilience, their relegation rivals managed to pull away. Crystal Palace and Swansea both landed crucial wins at the bottom, with Leicester the only team to lose in the bottom half. This performance offered hope but the task has got even greater.
Ndong shows his quality
Early on, Ndong raced to press the Spurs defence. Nobody followed and the visitors got out of danger easily. Yet the tone was set and his team-mates soon rallied to the Gabonese midfielder, who was a tenacious and influential presence. Bursting past players on the attack, sweeping up at the back, it was a reminder how he has been missed in recent weeks. Growing into the Premier League.
Keeping Defoe the best bit of business this month
Sunderland look to have fallen behind their rivals in this month’s transfer market, but keeping Defoe could well prove to be the best business anyone does. Once again feeding off scraps and hopeful long passes, Defoe still had the nous and experience to cause Toby Alderweireld a few problems. Excellent with back to goal, will hurt lesser teams.
Borini misses a big chance
Borini was given a big chance to play through the middle alongside Jermain Defoe, and it must be said that the Italian was far more influential than Adnan Januzaj has been in the same position over the last month. So it was galling that composure deserted the Italian at the crucial moments, most notably when he snatched at a half-volley with the goal gaping.
Rodwell’s big gamble
The decision to foul Dembele was sound, the Belgian powering down field with Tottenham ominously committing bodies in support. Still, the hack to bring him down was wild and with the ball nowhere near, Rodwell took a big chance. The referee opted for yellow and the ensuing melee sparked Sunderland and the crowd to life, but it could have ended very differently.