Sunderland 1-1 Birmingham: Blues earn point
By Press Association
Last Updated: 23/12/17 6:58pm
Championship basement boys Birmingham showed enough fight to earn a point with a 1-1 draw at relegation rivals Sunderland.
Despite having to play with 10 men for the final 23 minutes when Sam Gallagher, who had put his side ahead with a 16th-minute opener and his fourth of the season, was sent off for a second caution, City held on.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Sunderland who had hoped to build on last weekend's first victory at the Stadium of Light in almost a year with a second in a row but it never turned out that way. Instead they will spend Christmas in the bottom three.
In the end the only goal they could conjure was from Lewis Grabban. The 12-goal front-man, on loan from Bournemouth, hammered in the equaliser five minutes after the opener to leave City bottom and without an away win in 12.
Birmingham caused problems in the final third with a front three of Gallagher, Jota and Jeremie Boga lively, even if they are bottom of the division.
Sunderland fans might have expected it to have been easier after last week's lift, when they finally ended a 21-match wait for a win against Fulham. It never was, though.
After a lively enough start from Sunderland they should have edged ahead when Grabban arrived in the penalty area and flicked a finish wide from close range after Donald Love's low delivery.
Less than seven minutes later Birmingham made them pay. George Honeyman lost possession and a quick ball was played for Gallagher to run onto. He turned and saw an initial shot blocked by Marc Wilson but the forward applied the finish to raise concerns on Wearside again.
Sunderland goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter had already made an earlier save from Jonathan Grounds' head but Sunderland quickly levelled five minutes later.
Grabban controlled a ball in the box, sent a pass to the other side of the area for Love to volley towards the back post where the striker had carried on running to turn first time beyond David Stockdale.
Birmingham looked dangerous, though. Ruiter had to be alert to make a strong save at his near post from Gallagher's clever backheel after Jota had found him from the byline. The keeper also got down low to his left to hold a 20-yard effort from Jota.
Sunderland needed to do more in the final third. There was a low strike from range from James Vaughan that rolled inches wide and Honeyman saw a chipped cross towards the back post tipped over by Stockdale when it looked like it might drop in.
Sunderland's chances increased when Gallagher, already booked for going down cheaply in the area, was red carded for a strong challenge on Vaughan. And Honeyman should have scored from an unmarked position soon after, side footing wide from 15 yards. But there was no winner.
Chris Coleman: "I'm disappointed. An opportunity missed. Overall we were a little nervous, lacked a bit of confidence. I was pleased at 1-0 down to show conviction, we didn't fold. We showed adversity and courage, but I expected us to go and win it.
"In key moments we lost conviction and courage too after that. In all our performances since I have been here this is the one we looked nervous. We were tentative. I asked them to block out everything and concentrate on themselves. We dropped two points at home."
Steve Cotterill: "Three points we deserved today. I think it was a foul on Cheikh Ndoye for Sunderland's goal. Sam Gallagher's two bookings are the softest you will see in your life. You can see if it was one of them. But Sam is an honest boy. He hasn't dived. When he gets that touch, he has to go round him. What happens if he goes steaming into the keeper? It was harsh.
"If it was at (home) he doesn't get booked for that. For the second one it isn't a foul, no way. If it wasn't a foul for Ndoye for Sunderland goal then it wasn't a yellow card for Sam Gallagher. We could have been two goals to the good at half-time. We carved some great chances. It's been a tough old start to the season, but we need to work really hard just to get some credit for the rub of the green."