Wolves 0-0 Sunderland: Well-drilled Black Cats deny league leaders at Molineux despite Cattermole red card

Chris Coleman's Sunderland produced a gritty defensive display to prevent free-scoring Championship league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers from moving seven points clear at the top.

Wolves 0-0 Sunderland: Well-drilled Black Cats deny league leaders at Molineux despite Cattermole red card
(Picture: Getty Images)
Wolves
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Sunderland
Wolves: (3-4-3) Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Saïss (N'Diaye, min. 68), Douglas (Costa, min. 75); Cavaleiro, Bonatini, Jota.
Sunderland: (5-4-1) Ruiter; Love (Galloway, min. 80), Browning, O'Shea, Wilson, Matthews; Honeyman, Cattermole, Gibson, Gooch (Embleton, min. 90+1); Grabban (Vaughan, min. 84).
REFEREE: Jeremy Simpson (ENG). Bookings: Wilson (min. 51), Cattermole (min. 61), Cattermole sent off for second yellow (min. 62), Douglas (min. 65).
INCIDENTS: Championship match-day 21 fixture between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunderland at Molineux Stadium. Attendance: 28,488.

Wolves wasted a chance to move seven points clear at the top of the Championship after being held to a frustrated goalless draw by a well-drilled Sunderland at Molineux.

With second-placed Cardiff City not playing until Monday night, Nuno Espírito Santo's side had the opportunity to extend their gap at the top but were denied by Chris Coleman's resolute visitors.

The Black Cats were reduced to 10 men when Lee Cattermole saw the ninth red card of his career for two yellow cards inside 54 seconds after the hour but even numerical advantage could not help the league leaders find a breakthrough.

Robbin Ruiter produced late saves to deny Diogo Jota and Ivan Cavaleiro as Wolves drew a league game for just the third time this season, having won all of their last six before this.

Cardiff can now cut the gap at the top of the league to two points if they beat Reading on Monday night.

Visitors produce fine display to thwart Wolves

Wolves controlled the early stages with the returning Rúben Neves seeing lots of the ball beyond the half-way line but failing to pick out his team-mates as he looked to open up the visitors.

While Sunderland were dogged in defence, they struggled to offer support for danger man Lewis Grabban up top and posed little threat beside a few searching crosses.

The hosts struggled for rhythm in the final third with their final ball consistently slightly astray, Sunderland's shape and sheer numbers at the back leaving them frustrated.

Jota should have at least produced the game's first shot on target on 32 minutes when released by Neves' ball over the top, only to drag his effort well wide - Cavaleiro's quick feet sparing the playmaker the embarrassment of his shot from 12 yards going for a throw-in.

Cavaleiro's excellent burst and delivery down the left-hand side, only for Léo Bonatini to drive his shot from near the penalty spot well wide, was an apt summary of a dour first 45 minutes.

Little changed beyond the break with Wolves' dominance only increasing and Sunderland restricted to counter-attacking opportunities, Grabban bringing the first save of the afternoon on 56 minutes, John Ruddy more than equal to his 25-yard drive.

But two yellow cards within 54 seconds for Cattermole, the second a late lunge on Jota, invited Wolves to pour forward in even greater numbers.

Yet still they struggled to carve open Sunderland, Jota's deflected effort bringing Ruiter's first save in the 73rd minute with the Dutchman enjoying a strangely easy afternoon thanks to the home side's profligacy.

Ruiter was called into action again, but only to make another routine stop, when Wolves rolled a free-kick out to Neves on the edge of the box but he could only produce a tame side-footed attempt.

Jota blazed over from a good position before forcing Ruiter to dive low to his right with a curling effort from the edge of the area, while Cavaleiro had a low effort saved.

But Wolves' endeavour to find a late winner amounted to nothing as Sunderland held out for a hard-earned point, though one that keeps them in 23rd - still one away from safety.

Wolves attack fires a rare blank  

The blustery snow and frost of Storm Caroline meant that this fixture was under threat of postponement, but the hard work of the Wolves ground staff meant the pitch was deemed playable with the stadium’s surrounding areas also safe enough for supporters.

And while there was no danger of any fans falling over, Wolves surprisingly slipped up in a game they were huge favourites to win having won 10 of their 12 home games across all competitions this season and all of the last seven.

Nuno's charges were not at their best and despite dominating possession - 72 per-cent of it to be precise - and attempting 23 shots on goal, they had no-one to blame but themselves for failing to win a seventh straight league game.

In a dull first half, glimpses of the kind of fluid and slick attacking football that Molineux has become accustomed to witnessing this term - with 24 goals in 10 home league games - were few and far between as their front-line faltered.

And they didn't improve in the second half even despite Sunderland being reduced to 10 men, with Jota, Cavaleiro and Bonatini all below the standards they have set this season. 

The home side's final ball, and too their decision-making, consistently let them down and cost them more dangerous opportunities on the edge of the visitors' box.

They left it too late to increase the tempo and produce a sustained spell of pressure in the final third, and when they did Ruiter denied them with a late flurry of relatively simple stops. 

As a result the Championship's best attack are left rueing an unusually wasteful attacking display and in contrast to the low temperatures, they simply couldn't keep their cool going forward.

While Sunderland certainly dug in and produced a determined display at the back, Wolves will feel disappointed that they did not create more chances and ask more of Sunderland's goalkeeper, and will hope to bounce back away at Sheffield Wednesday on Friday night.

The worry is that more teams now come to Molineux and employ similar defensive tactics, with Wolves needing to hone their composure and creativity if that is the case.

Dogged Black Cats earn deserved point/h2>

Sunderland changed to a 3-4-3 to combat Wolves' many offensive threats, with Aiden McGeady making way for Marc Wilson alongside two enforced changes due to injury and suspension.

And Coleman's tactics, setting up to frustrate a Wolves side that he himself acknowledged as the 'Manchester City of the Championship' in his pre-match press conference, worked perfectly.

Visiting goalkeeper Ruiter had an afternoon so simple that few shot-stoppers will have at Molineux this season, being forced into genuine action only late on.

The Black Cats' bodies at the back left Wolves little space in behind and though they offered little going forward, with top-scorer Grabban starved of service and having their only shot of the game easily saved, they kept the league's best attack quiet.

Coleman will be especially pleased with this point given that he came into this game against the in-form front-runners without so many players due to an ongoing injury crisis.

Sunderland showcased as much grit as the City of Wolverhampton Council trucks that patrolled the streets of the city in the hours leading up to the game and survived a late siege valiantly to the delight of the 1,447 travelling supporters.

While Coleman has a job on his hands if he is still to mastermind a surge up the table, as he acknowledges, this result once again restores some belief that he can lift the North East outfit clear of trouble.

Now he must arrest their awful home form, having not won at the Stadium of Light since December 17 last year. They can prevent that streak from stretching beyond a year against Fulham next Saturday.