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Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Sunderland 0-0 Blackburn

By Pranav Soneji

Nyron Nosworthy and Jason Roberts challenge for a header
Jason Roberts missed a gilt-edged chance in the 92nd minute

Striker Jason Roberts spurned a gilt-edged chance two minutes into injury-time to deny Sam Allardyce his second win in two games as Blackburn manager.

Roberts was through on goal with keeper Martin Fulop beaten, but somehow sidefooted his shot from 15 yards wide of the left-hand post.

Fulop had earlier palmed Morten Gamst Pedersen's fine curling 20-yard free-kick on to his post after 52 minutes.

And the Hungarian denied Keith Andrews from 12 yards seven minutes later.

Although he will be disappointed to leave the Stadium of Light with a point, Allardyce can take satisfaction from a solid - if unspectacular - performance in only his second match at the helm.

Allardyce, who at one point had been favourite to succeed Roy Keane at the Stadium of Light, named an unchanged starting XI, although he was still without injured star striker Roque Santa Cruz, whose future at Ewood Park looks increasingly bleak after he admitted his desire join a more ambitious club.

Sunderland caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia also kept faith with his starting team that comprehensively beat Hull 4-1 last week.

Interview - Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce

Djibril Cisse was the focal point of Sunderland's early attacks, although the France international's timing was slightly askew as the offside flag denied his advances, but the best chance of a dire and turgid first half fell to Steed Malbranque after 18 minutes.

The French midfielder capitalised on a defensive mix-up between central defenders Ryan Nelsen and Stephen Warnock, but thumped his shot high over Paul Robinson's crossbar from the edge of the penalty area.

Defender Andre Ooijer collected his fifth yellow card of the season for an accidental elbow on Kenwyne Jones, an offence which will see the Dutchman serve an automatic one-match ban in the near future.

The second half was a complete contrast to the first and within a minute of the restart, Blackburn's Christopher Samba had the ball in the back of the net from a David Dunn free-kick.

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The Sunderland players were incensed, however, all pointing towards their arms to indicate handball.

Referee Martin Atkinson concurred with the protests and booked the centre-back for his audacious goal-scoring attempt.

The game, so uninspiring in the first 45 minutes, suddenly erupted as both sides began to attack, awakening the Stadium of Light crowd from their first-half slumber.

A foul on the edge of the area on Brett Emerton after 52 minutes saw Pedersen's fine left-footed curling free-kick brilliantly saved by Fulop, who diverted the ball to safety - via his left-hand post - with a full-length dive.

Interview - Sunderland caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia

Fulop once again maintained parity seven minutes later when he saved at the feet of Andrews, whose neat interchange with Benni McCarthy saw him saunter into the box without opposition, but he could not find enough elevation to chip the onrushing keeper.

Sunderland were not without their chances. Cisse thumped a well-struck volley over the bar after fine work from Malbranque on the right, while substitute Grant Leadbitter drilled a long-range shot straight at Robinson.

The game should have been won in the first minute of injury time when Roberts skipped past Phil Bardsley and the onrushing Fulop from Pedersen's long ball, but somehow contrived to sidefoot the ball past the right-hand post.

His manager's touchline celebrations were abruptly curtailed, although a point away from home should be enough to satisfy Allardyce's quest to maintain Blackburn's Premier League status.


Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce on Jason Roberts' last-minute missed opportunity:
"It's a golden chance to miss. We are all a little disappointed but things like that happen.

"It just got a bobble on it and hit him on the shin instead of the side of the foot and went wide of the post.

"But at the end of the day, it's four points our of six, it's another clean sheet, it's the basis of good things to help us get out of the position we are in."

Sunderland caretaker boss Ricky Sbragia:
"The longer the game goes on, the one thing you don't want to do is lose the game, that's important.

"We were nearly caught in the last minute - thank God, he missed the target - but maybe we deserved that bit of luck.

"I thought overall, we deserved the draw - whether Sam would disagree with that, I'm not sure - but the longer the game went on, the draw looked a safe bet for me."


Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Collins, Malbranque, Tainio (Whitehead 62), Richardson (Leadbitter 81), Reid, Cisse (Murphy 80), Jones.
Subs Not Used: Colgan, Edwards, Diouf, Chimbonda.

Blackburn: Robinson, Ooijer, Samba, Nelsen (Mokoena 90), Warnock, Emerton, Dunn (Kerimoglu 62), Andrews, Pedersen, Roberts, McCarthy (Derbyshire 88).
Subs Not Used: Brown, Khizanishvili, Treacy, Olsson.

Booked: Ooijer, McCarthy, Samba.

Att: 44,680

Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Blackburn's Benni McCarthy: 8.54 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.



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see also
Premier League as it happened
26 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Boxing Day football photos
26 Dec 08 |  Football


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