REPORT: SUNDERLAND 0-0 CITYNORWICH City earned their first draw on the road in the Premier League this season after a hard-fought battle with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Both sides could have won on the day, with City's best chances coming through Leroy Fer, Gary Hooper and the returning Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Sunderland went close through Ki Sung Yueng and Emmanuele Giaccherini, but the game ended on a sour note for the home side when Wes Brown was sent off for a lunge on van Wolfswinkel.
The result keeps the Canaries in 14th place in the Premier League, two points off the top ten and six clear of the relegation zone.
Chris Hughton was forced into making one change from last weekend’s draw at home to Swansea City, with Jonny Howson missing out through injury – thankfully Robert Snodgrass recovered from his knee knock to replace the former Leeds man.
Sunderland started with former Manchester United trio Brown, John O’Shea and Phil Bardsley at the back, and United States international striker Jozy Altidore leading the line.
City started well and made inroads into the hosts’ box in the second minute that ended when Gary Hooper’s square ball wasn’t met by anyone as it was drilled across the six-yard box.
Snodgrass was felled under the challenge of Bardsley in the box on 11 minutes but Martin Atkinson waved away any appeals for a penalty, before Nathan Redmond stung Vito Mannone’s gloves with a drive as the Canaries looked a threat going forward.
The Black Cats only efforts came from distance, and it was City who looked the more likely to make things happen, even though Johan Elmander’s header from Snodgrass’ cross was an easy claim for Mannone.
Fabio Borini powered a shot wide on the half hour from a Sunderland counter-attack, before Chris Hughton had Michael Turner to thank with a brave block from Altidore’s shot.
Some slick Canaries passing on 38 minutes resulted in Hooper receiving a Martin Olsson cross at the back-post, but the forward seemed almost surprised to receive possession and Mannone was able to collect.
Hooper then tested the Italian stopper from 25 yards, but one of City’s best chances came in the half’s final minute as Redmond’s reverse pass was met by Leroy Fer.
The Dutchman attempted to place his shot, however, and Mannone guessed correctly to comfortably make the save.
HALF-TIME: Sunderland 0-0 Norwich City
Specialist Seb Larsson lined up a free-kick for Sunderland in the second half’s first chance after Steven Whittaker’s foul on Borini, but City’s wall deflected it behind for a corner.
The home team were having the majority of possession in the early stages, but City always looked a threat on the counter and the Sunderland crowd were growing ever agitated by their lack of invention in the final third.
On 68 minutes, Hooper peeled away at the back post but couldn’t quite reach far enough to divert a threatening header from Snodgrass’ delivery.
Up the other end, City’s failure to clear a corner allowed Brown to rise above Ruddy and flick a header towards goal, but the Canaries supporters at that end will have been relieved to see it turn off the outside of the post and trickle wide.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel replaced the exhausted Johan Elmander for his return from injury with 15 minutes left on the clock, but as Sunderland pressed Bardsley’s header was gratefully clutched by Ruddy from Adam Johnson’s cross.
City broke with Leroy Fer on 82 minutes, and he released countryman van Wolfswinkel, whose left-footed shot was kept out by Mannone.
Then there was drama up the other end as Ruddy rushed out to clear but was beaten to the ball, and with Norwich’s goal temporarily vacant, Ki tried his luck from distance but his shot rested on the top of the net.
Both sides were visibly tiring as the game entered the closing stages, but tempers were flaring and Wes Brown was dismissed for a high lunge on van Wolfswinkel.
City threw bodies in the box to try and snatch the winner but the game finished goalless for City's first draw on the road.
FULL-TIME: Sunderland 0-0 Norwich City
SUNDERLAND: Mannone; Celustka, Brown, O’Shea (c), Bardsley; Cattermole, Ki; Borini, Larsson (Roberge 90), Giaccherini (Johnson 64); Altidore (Fletcher 69). Subs not used: Pickford (GK), Dossena, Gardner, Colback.
NORWICH CITY: Ruddy; Whittaker, Turner, Bassong (c), Olsson; Snodgrass, Fer, Johnson, Redmond; Elmander (van Wolfswinkel 77), Hooper. Subs not used: Bunn (GK), Hoolahan, Garrido, Becchio, R Bennett, Josh Murphy.