Effort made up for a lack of quality and craft to help Sunderland scrape a hard won even if unlikely point against a Tottenham side that bossed most of the match at the Stadium of Light. The team could so easily have been blown off the park.
Twice the Black Cats had to come back after conceding an early goal at the beginning of each half as Spurs raced out of the blocks. They were fired up following reports that Mauricio Pochettino had made them watch the 3-0 drubbing to Liverpool at White Hart Lane two weeks ago up to 20 times.
Despite the breath-taking start, Sunderland immediately hit back after Nacer Chadli, in the second minute, reacted quickest to slot home when Vito Mannone parried a side-footed shot from Emmanuel Adebayor from the edge of the box. The equaliser was from a jinking run by Adam Johnson cutting in from the left flank and dribbling between two defenders to beat Hugo Lloris albeit with a slight defection. And with his right foot!
Good fortune, or generosity on the part of Sunderland's defence, played a part when Spurs regained the lead just a few minutes after the restart as the ball was allowed to ping pong around in the box before Christian Eriksen placed it in the corner of the net.
The second equaliser eight minutes from the end came from a fortuitous own goal. It could have been Harry Kane's first touch after coming on as a substitute when Jordi Gomez fired over a free-kick from the left, having just come on the field himself.
The basic statistics underlined Spurs' domination, having 15 shots, six on target including two hitting the woodwork, compared with a total of 6 by the Black Cats and only the goal on target. With a 63/37 share of the play, the figures also confirm Sunderland's weakness, especially when at home. Without pace or much ingenuity, the team is always going to struggle playing counter-attacking football as they did last season when losing 11 games at the Stadium of Light.
Pochettino may have failed to beat Sunderland in four meetings when he was in charge of Southampton last season, but he was tactically spot on in wanting to get at Sunderland at high speed, knowing how the team sits back. Their midfield, particularly, Chadli, Eriksen, Erik Lamela and their Man of the Match Mousa Dembele were classy as they dominated whole sways of the game. Their control and movement off-the-ball emphasised how much the home team was lacking.
It was just another stern backs-to-the-wall display by Sunderland that keep the score down to crawl back a point. It also took another Man-of-the-Match performance by Lee Cattermole. The team depends a lot upon him and when he is on song, which fortunately seems much more often at the moment. In such form, he can give his chances of playing for England a boost, providing he keeps the red mist away, which he seems to be doing.
Gus Poyet was up front in admitting that Steven Fletcher had been excluded for tactical purposes rather than using a diplomatic sickie excuse. It allowed the opportunity to move Connor Wickham into the centre, where he seemed much better, though had little return from his grafting. It also brought an early baptism for Ricky Alvarez to enter the fray. He made a bright start to show his potential and that he did not seem as lightweight as many had reported he would be.
The game itself presented the dilemma of how the team should play at home, where it is so vital to make the Stadium of Light into a fortress again. Last season, they would have been relegated if they had not picked up more points away. Although some players still have to gel and we are still waiting for Jack Rodwell to prove what a coup his purchase may have been, my impression is that the formation is still not quite right and needs more tinkering.