Sunderland 1 Swansea City 1: Huge improvement as Cats get off the mark

Jermain Defoe fires home Sunderland's leveller against Swansea today. Picture by Frank Reid
Jermain Defoe fires home Sunderland's leveller against Swansea today. Picture by Frank Reid

Sunderland got their season up and running at the third time of asking after a vastly-improved display saw the Black Cats pick up a point against Swansea.

A first win continues to elude Dick Advocaat’s side, yet after the hapless displays against Leicester and Norwich, Sunderland were a completely different beast with a performance full of energy, determination and commitment.

It looked as if it would be the case of ‘same old story’ after Sunderland were hit with a sucker punch in first half stoppage time when Bafetimbi Gomis put the visitors ahead.

But Sunderland didn’t let that blow spark their demise, albeit they had a slice of fortune when Andre Ayew hit the inside of the post early in the second half.

Jermain Defoe drew Sunderland level just after the hour mark, before they should have been awarded a spot-kick when referee Neil Swarbrick failed to penalise a handball from Swansea skipper Ashley Williams.

However, Sunderland were indebted to three excellent saves from Costel Pantilimon to preserve a point, particularly the last one which was a stunning parry to keep out Gomis’ header.

John O’Shea took the place of the injured Younes Kaboul to make his first start of the season as one of three changes to the side, with Jack Rodwell and Danny Graham preferred to Seb Larsson and Steven Fletcher, who were both dropped to the bench.

For the opening half-hour, Sunderland were unrecognisable from the side who were so tamely swept aside by Leicester and Norwich during the opening two games.

While Dick Advocaat’s side struggled to create any clear-cut chances - as did Swansea - Sunderland had some bite.

Their constant pressing prevented Swansea playing their passing game, while in possession they played with plenty of tempo to raise the noise levels of the crowd.

The closest Sunderland came to a first half breakthrough was in the 36th minute when Yann M’Vila’s inswinging free-kick from the left was knock skywards by the head of Sebastian Coates.

As the ball descended, Danny Graham connected with an overhead kick, but it was deflected straight into the arms of Lukasz Fabianski.

But in first half stoppage time, Sunderland were left deflated after falling behind.

Patrick van Aanholt, who had been much-improved up to that point, was too tight on Andre Ayew in the centre-circle and it gave space for Kyle Naughton to race into.

Naughton threaded the ball in between the centre-halves for Bafetimbi Gomis, who slid it across Costel Pantilimon into the far corner.

Sunderland then a huge let-off seven minutes into the second half when Swansea took a short corner and Jonjo Shelvey’s inswinging cross from the left was glanced on by the head of Ayew.

But Sunderland benefited from a chunk of fortune after the ball hit the inside of the post, rolled across the face and away, with Costel Pantilimon motionless.

Ayew then should have done better on the hour mark when he sent a free header wide from eight yards out.

Three minutes later pulled level after M’Vila’s tackle allowed Sunderland to break through Graham, Jeremain Lens and Defoe.

Graham fed Lens, who played Defoe in down the right-hand side of the area. His connection was far from clean, but there was enough behind the shot to trickle into the far corner.

Sunderland then had a clear case for a penalty when the outstretched arm of Ashley Williams bounced Rodwell’s shot into the turf, but referee Neil Swarbrick waved play on.

At the other end, Pantilimon needed to produce a full-length save to turn away Shelvey’s angled shot.

Moments later, the Romanian had to repeat the trick to produce an even better effort to turn Gylfi Sigurdsson’s low shot around the post.

Pantilimon produced his best save for the 75th minute though when Jefferson Montero beat Billy Jones to get to the left-hand by-line and lifted the ball into the area.

Gomis got to the cross, but his header was kept out by a world class full-length finger-tip save from Pantilimon.

Sebastian Coates had a late chance to win it for Sunderland, but sent his header over the top from M’Vila’s corner.

Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, O’Shea, Coates, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Rodwell, M’Vila, Lens (Larsson 90), Defoe (Watmore 86), Graham (Fletcher 67). Subs not used: Mannone, Brown, Matthews, Giaccherini. Booked: Lens (18), Cattermole (22), Coates (47), van Aanholt (82)

Swansea: Fabianski, Naughton, Williams, Fernandez, Taylor, Cork, Shelvey, Sigurdsson, Ayew, Montero, Gomis (Eder 76). Subs not used: Nordfelt, Britton, Dyer, Routledge, Rangel, Bartley. Booked: Ayew (54)

Attendance: 39,198