Crystal Palace produced another stoic defensive display on the road to claim what could prove to be a vital Premier League point against relegation rivals Sunderland.
The Black Cats enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and created the better chances throughout the 90 minutes – coming closest when Fabio Borini’s second half shot cannoned off the crossbar – but Tony Pulis’ men held firm to secure what was only their fourth league draw of the season.
Mackems winger Adam Johnson set the tone for the afternoon as early as the third minute, cutting inside from the right and whipping in a left-footed cross towards Steven Fletcher, who could only head off-target under pressure from Adrian Mariappa.
Five minutes later, a foul by the recalled right back on Fabio Borini gave Sunderland another chance to get the ball into a dangerous area – and after Joel Ward could only head Seb Larsson’s delivery away to the edge of the box, Marcos Alonso’s drive forced Julian Speroni into a routine first save of the match.
Sunderland continued to press for an early opening goal during what was a high-tempo start from the hosts and Johnson’s deflected effort was headed wide by Wes Brown, before Ki Sung Yeung took aim from 25 yards but blazed wildly off target.
The Black Cats were purring and they threatened again when Borini’s dragged shot was flicked wide by Fletcher, but there was a nervous moment for the home faithful just after the half hour mark. Goalkeeper Vito Mannone slipped while attempting a routine clearance and could only bundle the ball away as far as Tom Ince 25 yards from goal. The on loan Blackpool man did well to control the ball, but could only direct his volley straight at the Mackems’ recovering glovesman.
That was as close as Palace came in the opening half as they were forced to weather a north-easterly storm which nearly breached the Eagles back line two minutes before the interval. Larsson’s corner was partially cleared to Ince on the edge of his own penalty area, but his attempted clearance was sliced back into the danger zone and into the path of Borini, whose acrobatic effort flew wide.
Tony Pulis would have been thankful to see referee Neil Swarbrick blow the half time whistle with the scores still locked at 0-0, but it was Gus Poyet’s side who went close again five minutes after the restart. Jozy Altidore, introduced at half time in place of Fletcher, did well to hold off Scott Dann and Mariappa after collecting a long ball, before swivelling and drilling a left-footed shot which was superbly parried away by Speroni.
Yannick Bolasie dirtied Mannone’s gloves for only the second time in the game just before the hour mark when his curing left-footed shot went straight down the Italian’s throat, but it was Sunderland who continued to enjoy more of the ball without creating a clear cut chance.
Adlene Guedioura then entered the fray in place of Ince for the visitors and the Algerian international instantly got himself into the action, teeing up fellow substitute Cameron Jerome, who could only shoot tamely at Mannone from the edge of the box.
Palace were suddenly starting to sense that they could nick all three points and when Mile Jedinak was bundled to the ground by Wes Brown on 79 minutes, the visitors were handed a decent set-piece opportunity 25 yards from goal. It looked set for the left foot of Joe Ledley, but it was Guedioura who tried his luck, only to see his curling effort beat the wall but drift past the post.
Moments later though, Sunderland twice came within inches of edging in front – and twice it was Borini who was left holding his head in despair. First the on loan Liverpool forward smashed a right-footed shot against the crossbar, and when the Black Cats were first to the loose ball, it found its way back to Borini, who pivoted on the edge of the D and whipped a brilliantly shaped shot past Speroni but just over the top.
Palace could have stolen all three points in the 89th minute when Guedioura’s shot was controlled well by Jerome with his back to goal. The frontman held off his man and slipped in Kagisho Dikgacoi, but his shot whistled past the top corner when he should probably have hit the target from inside the box.
Substitute Jason Puncheon chanced his arm in the final minute of stoppage time, but his left-footed strike was easily gathered by Mannone as the game ended goalless.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa, Dann, Delaney, Ward, Bolasie (Puncheon 81), Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Ledley, Ince (Guedioura 73), Murray (Jerome 63). Subs not used: Hennessey, McCarthy, Thomas, Gayle.
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Alonso, O'Shea, Brown, Bridcutt, Ki, Larsson (Gardner 62), Johnson (Scocco 84), Borini, Fletcher (Altidore 46). Subs not used: Ustari, Vergini, Cattermole, Colback.