Stoke City 1-1 Sunderland: The main talking points from a tough trip to the Britannia

Sunderland were very fortunate to come away with a draw at the Britannia Stadium yesterday, here is what we learned as the relegation battle took another twist.

Stoke City 1-1 Sunderland: The main talking points from a tough trip to the Britannia
Jermain Defoe was once again Sunderland's saviour, as he won and scored the equalising penalty. (Photo: Sunderland AFC)

Sunderland fell back into the bottom three yesterday as they gained a solitary point away to Stoke City, meaning they now sit one point above Norwich City and one point below Newcastle United; although they do have a game in hand on the latter.

Jermain Defoe was - once again - the man of the moment as he fired home a 93rd minute spot kick to take his tally of away goals to 11 for the season. Here's what we learned from what could turn out to be a crucial point come the final day of the season.

Defoe's penalty was massive after Newcastle's win

With Newcastle leading 1-0 at home to Crystal Palace thanks to Andros Townsend and a penalty miss from Yohan Cabaye, Sunderland were simultaneously 1-0 down and were looking at a two point gap between themselves and the Magpies.

This would have meant that nothing but a win would be required for their game in hand against Everton, however Defoe's late equaliser means that the Black Cats can perhaps afford to draw the game and then match the results of their neighbours for the final two games, with their superior goal difference putting them in the driving seat.

There is no doubt that Sunderland will still go for the win against the Toffees though, as three points there would give them a huge boost going into the final weekend of the season.

Sunderland can't continue to be this wasteful in possession

Just as they were against Arsenal a week ago, Sam Allardyce's side were once again wasteful with the ball and created practically nothing throughout the match, as well as failing to hold on to the ball to relieve the pressure that Stoke piled on in the second half especially.

Sunderland mustered a poor pass accuracy percentage of 62% as they struggled to find a man in a green shirt consistently throughout the game, and although their average pass accuracy of 71% shows that they are not exactly a side playing free-flowing tiki-taka football, they usually create more than they did yesterday.

If the Wearsiders are to get the wins they need to secure their place in the 2016/17 Premier League season, Allardyce must calm the nerves in the dressing room and stamp out the sloppiness that has crept into his side's play recently.

What has happened to Jeremain Lens?

For a man playing in the Champions League last season, failing to even make the bench of a side sitting in 18th place in the Premier League is certainly not the way Jeremain Lens envisioned his big move to England panning out.

With Wahbi Khazri, Fabio Borini, Duncan Watmore and Dame N'Doye currently ahead of him in the pecking order, Lens is clearly not in the plans of his manager, but you have to ask why this is the case?

None of the aforementioned players have exactly set the world alight for Sunderland this season, and although it could be argued that Big Sam has opted for players with a high work ethic over so called 'luxury players', you only have to look to his goal at home to West Ham to see that Lens has the quality that can win games.

It would be a surprise if he were to remain at the Stadium of Light next season regardless of Sunderland's top-flight status, but until then you have to at the very least consider the Dutch international for selection.

It would be a surprise to see Lens (top right) donning Sunderland's new home kit in the 2016/17 season. (Photo: Sunderland AFC)
It would be a surprise to see Lens (top right) donning Sunderland's new home kit in the 2016/17 season. (Photo: Sunderland AFC)

Stoke were forced to field a rookie 'keeper, so why didn't Sunderland test him?

With injuries to Jack Butland and Shay Given ruling them out of contention, Stoke gave 24-year old Jakob Haugaard his third start of the season, and he will have been thrilled with just how quiet his game was.

Despite the failure to keep a clean sheet thanks to Defoe's late penalty, Haugaard was not tested at all by the Sunderland attack, only making four saves over the entire 90 minutes with all four of those saves being routine stops.

He was undoubtedly the weak link in Stoke's side due to his inexperience, and the opportunity to test him was inexplicably passed up by the Black Cats as they offered very little in the way of shots on target, mustering just five during the game.

The relegation battle will almost certainly go down to the final weekend

Sunderland would have hoped that they could secure survival slightly earlier than the final game, as they have done in the past two seasons, but this season it looks as if it will be all to play for when they travel to Vicarage Road to face Watford on the final day.

With Newcastle at home to Tottenham and Norwich away to Everton, you could say that Sunderland have a marginally easier match than their rivals, with the Hornets scraping a win at home to Aston Villa yesterday thanks to two injury time goals from Troy Deeney.

By this point Sunderland could either be in the driving seat or they may have to rely on favours from Tottenham and Everton to stay up, either way though Sunderland fans will be hoping that Watford already have their sights on sunny beaches and swimming pools in two weeks time.