Sunderland 0 - 0 Burnley: Black Cats spurn priceless second half chances to move further adrift at bottom

Jones missed a priceless opportunity to put Sunderland ahead
Jones missed a priceless opportunity to put Sunderland ahead
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Sunderland missed a plethora of golden chances in the second half as their relegation fears deepened.

Fabio Borini, Adnan Januzaj,Seb Larsson and Billy Jones all came close in an encouraging response to a tepid first half, but with other results again going against them, the gap to safety increased.

They were the better half by quite some distance by the end, Burnley in second gear for most of the second period.

Sam Vokes drew a fine save from Jordan Pickford late on but their best opening came moments from the end of the first half, Ashley Barnses somehow missing from inside the six yard box.

It was a game that the Black Cats ought to have won, in which they created a number of chances but crucially, none fell to Jermain Defoe.

The Stadium was lifted after a tense, grim opening period in which nerves won out.

There has been a school of thought among some Sunderland fans that relegation may be a good thing, that the only thing worse is the prospect of another season of struggle.

Financial concerns aside, the first half was a fairly solid advert for that perspective.

The quality was low, descending into something of a slugfest as half-time approached.

It had started surprisingly open, Fabio Borini pushed into a central position and Adnan Januzaj given the freedom to stay high and form something close to a front three. They had some bright moments, with Burnley threatening on the counter.

Jason Denayer was proving a more than capable deputy for Lamine Kone, dealing well with Andre Gray and making a number of very important interceptions.

Sunderland's attack was struggling to create clear cut openings, though the way Januzaj manage to glide away on the break offered some hope. The sight of Joey Barton receiving a yellow after being comprehensively beaten by the Belgian was a rare moment of joy in the Stadium of Light during a tough first half.

The atmosphere was tense, the crowd seeing that Sunderland were missing the necessary quality in midfield and hanging in at times.

They did have some encouraging moments, Darron Gibson firing just over from Januzaj's cut-back at a corner.

Nevertheless Burnley looked the most likely and missed a major chance when Scott Arfield's scuffed effort fell to Ashley Barnes on the six-yard line. The goal was gaping but he somehow managed to turn it wide.

The game ambled towards the half way mark, broken up by a series of poor passes and niggling fouls.

The only real redeeming aspect that was unlike many recent home encounters, the hosts avoided conceding the crucial first goal before the break.

They could have been ahead just minutes after the restart.

Adnan Januzaj and Seb Larsson switched flanks and the Black Cats were on the front foot. Bryan Oviedo slid in Fabio Borini but after racing clear of the Clarets defence, his could only fire his side-footed effort straight at Tom Heaton.

Two more chances went begging within minutes, Januzaj forcing a strong save from Heaton at the far post and Seb Larsson shooting over the bar from Oviedo's resulting cross.

That promise was the lift needed for the crowd, even if Burnley managed to steady and get a foothold back in the game.

They wanted a penalty after a goalmouth scramble, but Sunderland broke well and ought to have taken the lead. Januzaj saw his cross blocked, moving the ball backwards to Larsson. His first-time cross to the back post was sumptuous and presented a free header to Billy Jones, who could only head back across goal. Januzaj then saw an effort from distance flash just wide of the post as the Black Cats stepped up the intensity.

Wahbi Khazri was introduced, much to the delight of the home faithful, and almost set up Defoe with his first touch. Didier Ndong has started the move with an excellent block tackle, but the pass was just too heavy and Heaton was able to gather. Januzaj saw his effort from Oviedo's cross blocked by the Burnley defence as the Black Cats just failed to find the final touch.

There was almost a calamitous end for the hosts as Sam Vokes ran clear of Denayer, but Pickford made a strong save with his right hand to keep the scores level.

It was a frantic end to the game, Borini forcing a late save from Heaton but the crucial goal never came.