Sunderland 2-2 West Brom

By Phil DawkesBBC Sport
Nicklas Bendtner scores for Sunderland
Bendtner opened his Sunderland scoring account midway through the first half

Sunderland came back from two goals down to earn a point from an entertaining encounter with West Brom.

The Black Cats had a mountain to climb after James Morrison's header and Shane Long's neat side-foot finish gave Albion a 2-0 lead five minutes in.

But Sunderland hit back with their own quick-fire double 20 minutes later when Nicklas Bendtner's deflected shot found the net and Ahmed Elmohamady headed in.

Sunderland had the best of the second half but were unable to find a winner.

Criticism is ridiculous - Bruce

The result may not quite give the Wearsiders a sweet ending to what has been a sour week, following allegations of sexual assault and drug possession against defender Titus Bramble, but it does at least demonstrate that their spirit remains strong in the face of adversity.

Steve Bruce's side have swung from highs to lows in what has been at best a wildly inconsistent start to the season. They experienced a microcosm of this within the opening 45 minutes at the Stadium of Light.

Five minutes into the game the Black Cats were facing a mountain, partly because of West Brom's newly-found ruthlessness in front of goal but also as a result of the home side's defensive generosity.

Prior to this match, Albion had only scored three league goals all season, but Wes Brown's lax marking allowed Morrison to head in their fourth from a Chris Brunt free-kick and then, a minute later, the initial squandering of possession and Michael Turner's lack of pace let Long run through to slot in another.

It was an impressive opening salvo from the Baggies, especially for a side that have made a poor beginning to what has been an admittedly tough start to their campaign.

It shell-shocked the home crowd, who quickly demanded a response, which came midway through the half and in emphatic fashion.

Bendtner was central to it at all, firstly firing home, via a deflection off Gareth McAuley, after being teed up by Sebastien Larsson's neat backheel, and then a minute later crossing for Elmohamady to head in an equaliser.

It was the first goal either had scored for Sunderland.

In truth, four first-half goals was a conservative return from an abundance of scoring opportunities for both sides, but Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet did well to twice deny Morrison and opposite number Ben Foster saved Larsson's shot on the turn. Dane Larsson also had a goal rightly ruled out for offside.

The second half was a less open affair, in which West Brom grew increasingly and efficiently conservative.

Hodgson happy with attacking display

Sunderland's best chances for a winner came from Brown's back-post header, which he put into the turf and over, and an Elmohamady shot from 12 yards palmed away by Ben Foster.

Both sides will be disappointed not to have claimed their second win of the season, but in the end each had reasons to be grateful for the point.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:

"It was incredible. An awful start but there was spirit and togetherness there to drag us back into the game. All credit to the players for sticking at it.

"We could quite easily have folded today but thankfully they rolled up their sleeves and got back into it. We could even have won it. We had a couple of great opportunities but we just ran out of juice.

"There's six or seven players playing their fourth or fifth game here and they know what it is all about now."

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson:

"There were 90 minutes left to play when we were 2-0 up, so the game starts all over again.

"I think we should give credit to Sunderland for really mounting a strong challenge and getting over the disappointment of a poor start both in terms of conceding goals and maybe giving the ball away far more than Steve would like in that early spell.

"At half-time, it was up to us to get our minds right again and not to think about the fact that we had been 2-0 up, but to make sure that we got ourselves organised enough to get a result in the second half."

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