We have two massive home games to beat relegation, says Defoe
Stoke City Arnautovic 50 1 Sunderland Defoe 90 pen 1 Att: 27,667
The North East battle for survival resembles a pair of veteran boxers stumbling around the ring, scrambling for the knockout punch that ends the contest. Sam Allardyce is back in the Premier League’s bottom three and running out of time but this result felt significant ahead of two potentially pivotal home games.
Jermain Defoe rescued a point in the fourth minute of added time from the penalty spot to breathe new life into Sunderland’s Premier League safety mission and, after the game, there was only one other result the team were interested in.
“As soon as you come off, it’s the first question you ask,” said Defoe. “I asked how Newcastle got on and was told they had won. It’s not nice
when you have to rely on other results as well, but we’ve got some massive games coming up and it’s in our own hands. We have to use these next two games to get ourselves into a situation where we’re out of the bottom three going into the last game of the season.
“Whatever else happens, we want to be going to Watford knowing that if we win, we’re definitely safe. That’s the challenge for the next two games. It’s going to be a massive game on the last day of the season.”
Sunderland will face Chelsea on Saturday and then play their crucial game in hand the following Wednesday against Everton, ensuring that destiny is in their own grasp. This could have been worse for Allardyce, after Stoke missed a string of chances, but Newcastle’s narrow victory over Crystal Palace was difficult for him to take.
“Am I concerned about Newcastle? I’m not surprised because they spent a huge amount of money and they’ve got quality players. They’ve had a bit of fortune, haven’t they, whereas we didn’t have any [at Stoke],” he said.
Stoke ended a run of three successive defeats but were left to reflect on referee Craig Pawson’s significant moment, after Geoff Cameron was judged to have pulled down Defoe in the penalty area. Marko Arnautovic had given Stoke the lead with his 11th goal of the season, which was his final contribution before departing with an injury – and it could be one of his final appearances at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke have hit deadlock in their attempts to agree a new deal with the Austria international, who said: “My part is to show good performances on the pitch and to make Stoke City happy. The contract is being dealt with by my brother – it’s not my decision.”
Late show: Jermain Defoe’s penalty gave his side hope