Heartbreak for Black Cats
By Graeme Bailey. Last Updated: 17/09/05 4:45pm
Zoltan Gera broke Sunderland hearts as he headed home with just seconds remaining to give West Bromwich Albion a 1-1 draw at The Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats ended their Premiership losing streak of 20 straight games, but the home fans still await an elusive victory.
A Gary Breen header looked to have given Sunderland their first top-flight win since December 2002 some 25 games ago - but it was not to be as, with the virtually the last touch of the game, Gera rose to head home.
As expected, Sunderland began with a high tempo and they forced a chance within the first minute when Nyron Nosworthy looked for Andy Gray in the area, but Curtis Davies did enough to put the striker off.
West Brom were slow to react to Sunderland's early pressure and the home side duly went ahead.
It came from a set-piece as Dean Whitehead floated a perfect corner into the area for captain Breen, who rose relatively unchallenged to head into the corner of the net.
Sunderland continued to have the better of things after the goal and Whitehead will be disappointed with his effort that fell harmlessly wide when Julia Arca's miscued chance fell to him just inside the area.
Paul Robinson then denied Whitehead with a great sliding challenge on the edge of the area and that seemed to stir the visitors into action and they went on to dominate the rest of the half.
Gera soon tested Kelvin Davis in the home goal and the Sunderland defence suddenly had to cope with a succession of West Brom raids.
A great chance fell for Jonathan Greening on the half hour, but the former Middlesbrough man blasted over from wide of the six-yard box, after a wonderful move which saw Robert Earnshaw play a neat one-two with Steve Watson on the edge of the area.
Earnshaw was beginning to have a real impact on the game and had a viable penalty claim turned away by rookie referee Richard Beeby after Breen seemed to pull him back in the area.
On the stroke of half time, Earnshaw had his best chance as he latched onto a Kevin Campbell flick-on but just as he got the better of the last defender he flashed his shot wide and failed to test Davis.
The second half began in stark contrast to the first period and neither side could create anything you could remotely describe as attractive football.
Mick McCarthy was first to change things as he introduced Liam Lawrence and Anthony Le Tallec to try and spark his side into stepping up their performance.
Sunderland then created a half chance as a Nosworthy cross-cum-shot fizzed across the six-yard box, but nobody reacted and Chris Kirkland allowed the ball to roll across the area and out.
Arca did his best to try and inspire things but after jinxing his way to the edge of the area, his right footed effort was well wide.
Almost from nothing, Kirkland was then forced to pull of a wonderful save to keep West Brom in the game. Sunderland broke well down the right and Whitehead's snap shot was brilliantly parried away.
Sunderland were looking the most likely and Le Tallec tested Kirkland again, this time from a sweetly struck free kick - but the Baggies man claimed the ball safely.
Arca, who came into the game a lot more in the second period, then saw a terrific effort from 20 yards just fly inches wide of Kirkland's right-hand post.
West Brom were looking a shadow of the team that dominated the opening period and Bryan Robson introduced Diomansy Kamara.
The Senegalese front-man immediately made an impact as he latched onto a long ball, but his finishing let him down as he fired well over from the edge of the area.
Earnshaw's neat turn and shot proved to be his last contribution to the game as Nathan Ellington came on. The substitute had the chance to break his duck with his first shot, but Davis pushed the ball wide to the relief of the Sunderland faithful.
However, the home fans' nerves - which were already shot - took yet further pounding in the dying moments.
Loanee Justin Hoyte looked to be the hero of the day as he cleared off the line when Ronnie Wallwork's header had beaten Davis.
But from the resulting corner the Wearsiders' worst fears were realised as Gera rose unmarked to head past Davis.
The draw does little for either side and although their run of losses is over, Sunderland's run of 26 Premiership games without a win has still to come to an end.
Click here Sunderland v West Brom player ratings
|Sunderland||Team Name||West Bromwich Albion|
|4||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||4|
|5||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||7|
|19||Total Fouls Conceded||11|
Barclays Premier League
|12||West Ham United||38||47|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||38||44|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||38||30|