Cardiff City were denied three points in devastating fashion as Jack Colback pounced in injury time to complete a remarkable comeback by Sunderland at Cardiff City Stadium.
The Bluebirds had looked well on their way to earning three vital Premier League points after Jordon Mutch and Fraizer Campbell each got their fourth goals of the campaign either side of the break. Gus Poyet’s side refused to lay down though, as substitute Steven Fletcher pulled a goal back on eighty-three minutes, before Colback grabbed a deflected equaliser which salvaged the draw right at the death.
For the first top-flight meeting between City and Sunderland since the 1956-57 season, Gary Medel returned to the starting line-up as caretaker manager David Kerslake made three changes to the Cardiff City starting eleven following Boxing Day’s defeat to Southampton. Declan John started at left-back for his first Premier League home start, while Kim Bo-Kyung also came in.
The Bluebirds started on the offensive as they looked to bounce back quickly from two defeats. In the first minute alone, Campbell was just beaten to a high ball by Black Cats 'keeper Vito Mannone, before Jordon Mutch was shown a yellow card for what referee Chris Foy deemed to have been simulation in the penalty area as he went down under the challenge of Roberge.
Steven Caulker headed wide from a Peter Whittingham free-kick a minute later. The impressive pace and skill of Craig Noone, making his fourth consecutive start, allowed an opening for the winger to cross to Jordon Mutch, who headed just off target, the Bluebirds well on top in the early exchanges.
That pressure told with City’s next chance, Campbell winning the ball in a promising position before laying it off to Mutch. Cardiff City’s attacking midfielder drove through the middle of the Sunderland defence before letting loose with a shot that deflected off Modibo Diakité and into the net for his fourth goal of the season.
The inspired Mutch saw more of the ball in the attacking third minutes later, as the former Birmingham City player stretched to get his head to an over-hit cross, though he was unable to trouble the Italian ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Mannone. The shot-stopper was called into action again as the returning Kim Bo-Kyung rifled one at him from twenty yards, the Black Cats keeper doing well to tip the South Korean international’s effort over.
A low, driven Whittingham free-kick nearly caught out Mannone at his near-post, with the keeper doing well to tip the ball around his post on twenty-four minutes. Phil Bardsley might have worked an opportunity for himself had he not shied away from a Ben Turner challenge, before Campbell got down low to head a cross worked by Mutch and Kim wide. Craig Noone tried one from range, Mannone dealing with it well to close out the opening half-hour.
City hearts were in mouths as Emanuele Giaccherini found space on left and Caulker looked hesitant to close him down. He found Ki Sung-Yueng, on loan from Swansea City, whose shot was saved by David Marshall before Jozy Altidore squandered the rebound with the goal at his mercy.
Marshall was on hand once again to pull out a great stop to deny a curling Borini effort away from his goal on thirty-five minutes. He then repeated the feat five minutes later, Borini visibly exasperated as how he had been unable to find a way past the Scotland international. The Bluebirds saw out the first half, heading in at the break with a one-goal advantage.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 1–0 SUNDERLAND
Black Cats manager Gus Poyet sent Steven Fletcher on in place of Borini at the break.
It did little to stem the tide of Cardiff City's attacking flair however as the Bluebirds soon doubled their advantage. A move started by a long ball forward from Ben Turner, before the influential Mutch sent in the perfect delivery for the unmarked Fraizer Campbell to side-foot into the net for his fourth Premier League goal of the season against his former club.
Substitute Fletcher was proving a threat in the attacking third for the visitors however, twice City defenders had to block his efforts to pull one back. On the second occasion, Larsson took the resulting corner and captain Lee Cattermole whipped a shot very narrowly over the bar.
David Kerslake made his first change as caretaker boss as he replaced Craig Noone with Don Cowie after seventy-one minutes, before Turner headed over from a right-sided Whittingham corner. Craig Gardner and Jack Colback came on for Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole with just over fifteen minutes remaining, while Aron Gunnarsson replaced Kim Bo-Kyung on seventy-eight. Substitute Gardner almost had the desired effect as he headed on a Bardsley cross that Marshall collected before Andreas Cornelius came on in place of Campbell with ten minutes to go.
Fletcher’s persistence paid off in the eighty-third minute when he stretched to put the ball beyond Marshall and drag the Black Cats back within one, sterring home a Giaccherini cross to finally beat the persistent Marshall in goal.
With Sunderland in the ascendancy, Gardner put one over after the ball had deflected off the backside of Whittingham, while Colback went even closer with a low drive soon after.
Valentin Roberge brought a save out of Marshall in the first of five minutes of stoppage time, before a brilliant tackle from Caulker took the ball off Giaccherini two minutes later. The pressure was building as Bardsley saw his shot blocked before Colback’s effort in the final seconds of the game deflected off Whittingham and into the back of the net to earn Gus Poyet’s side a point and deny City what would have been a vital victory.
FULL-TIME: CARDIFF CITY 2-2 SUNDERLAND
Cardiff City: Marshall, Caulker (capt), Turner, Whittingham, Medel, Campbell (Cornelius 82), Kim (Gunnarsson 79), Noone (Cowie 72), Mutch, Théophile-Catherine, John. Subs not used: Lewis, Hudson, Odemwingie, Maynard.
Goals: Mutch (6), Campbell (58)
Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Dossena, Ki, Larsson (Gardner 74), Altidore, Diakité, Giaccherini, Roberge, Borini (Fletcher 45), Cattermole (C) (Colback 74). Subs not used: Pickford, Cabral, Čelůstka, Ba.
Goals: Fletcher (83), Colback (90)
Attendance: 27,247 (Cardiff City Stadium)