Sunderland 1-1 Newcastle United
A DRAMATIC own-goal from Newcastle United striker Demba Ba handed Sunderland a share of the spoils in the first north east derby of the season.
The Magpies went ahead in just the third minute through Yohan Cabaye but were reduced to 10 men when Cheick Tiote was dismissed in the 24th minute. Sunderland pressed, but a Ba own-goal was all they had to show for their efforts in a frantic second period.
The draw means that the Black Cats have one just once at the Stadium of Light against United since they moved in 1997.
Martin O'Neill started Adam Johnson despite fears about his fitness prior to the game, meaning Seb Larsson continued in the centre of midfield in place of Lee Cattermole who served the final match of his suspension.
Phil Bardsley returned to the bench following an ankle injury.
Alan Pardew welcomed back key duo Tim Krul and Fabricio Coloccini, with Steven Taylor fit enough to take his place amongst the subsitutes.
Shola Ameobi started up front alongside Demba Ba.
Sunderland got off to the worst-possible start when Demba Ba made room to shoot down the right-hand side of the Cats' penalty area, his shot bouncing off the feet of Simon Mignolet and into the path of Cabaye who steered home after just three minutes.
It took a quarter of an hour for the hosts to register their first effort on target, Larsson whipping a free-kick up and down with pace, Krul able to gather with ease at his near post.
Cabaye had another effort shortly after which Mignolet had to be alive to in order to palm over his crossbar.
In the 24th minute, there was a sharp twist as Tiote was given a straight red card for his lunge on Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher.
The Ivory Coast international had already been awarded a free-kick after being held back by Jack Colback, but preceded to throw himself into a full-blooded challenge with Fletcher was saw him needlessly dismissed.
Sunderland began to set about trying to make the most of their numerical advantage.
Danny Rose's cross to the far post chipped over by Larsson before Craig Gardner came agonizingly close when he swept narrowly wide of the far post from a short free-kick in the 34th minute.
Shortly after Gardner saw his shot deflected wide from inside the penalty area after he delayed pulling the trigger.
The Magpies were not without threat, and Ba came close to doubling their advantage which his audacious scissor-kick flew narrowly over from close range following a corner.
With James Perch replacing Ameobi in order to tighten up the visitors' midfield, Sunderland struggled to break down the resilient Magpies.
In a second-half which was the very epitome of one side trying and failing to break down 10 men, it took until the 68th minute for a notable chance to come the way of O'Neill's side; Larsson whipping a free-kick comfortably wide of Krul's right-hand post.
Two minutes later substitute Louis Saha ought to have done better when presented with a golden opportunity after Krul spilled a left-wing cross. The Frenchman unable to get a solid enough contact on the ball to divert goalwards.
Newcastle's threat began to diminish, but Ba was again unfortunate when he controlled a long ball over the top, prodding under Mignolet only for the Belgian to block well as he went down.
Saha saw the most presentable opportunity of the game fall his way with eight minutes to play, rushing a side-footed effort into the side netting when well place from six yards.
Finally, with four minutes to play, Sunderland struck lucky.
A deep free-kick was delivered into the Magpies' penalty area, John O'Shea heading on, Ba getting the final, decisive touch past his own goalkeeper to level up the scores.
With just two minutes left on the clock, Saha was in the thick of the action again, laying off to Larsson as he was man-handled, the Swede drilling wide of Krul's far post on his right foot.
In the end, the fact that the visitors were down to 10 men was telling. Whilst Sunderland struggled to break Pardew's side down for much of the match, they forced United deeper and deeper until an equaliser prevailed.
This, as so often with derbies, was far from pretty and the form of Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean is still woefully short. Johnson needs a run of game before he can find full match fitness and sharpness and the team as a whole are reliant on balls into the penalty area for Fletcher to snaffle up.
In short, if the Scot doesn't score, and McClean, Larsson, Sessegon or Johnson aren't at the races, O'Neill's men remain very blunt and predictable.
Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea (c), Cuellar, Rose; Johnson (Vaughan), Larsson, Colback, McClean; Sessegnon (Saha); Fletcher.
Substitutes not used: Westwood (GK), Bardsley, Kilgallon, Meyler & Campbell.
Newcastle United: Krul; Simpson, Williamson, Coloccini (c) (S.Taylor), Santon; Ben Arfa (Obertan), Tiote, Cabaye, Gutierrez; Sh. Ameobi (Perch) & Ba.
Substitutes not used: Harper (GK), Ferguson, Anita & Cisse.
Attendance: 47 456
Referee: Mr M Atkinson.
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