For this crucial clash against Spurs, Sunderland opted to “rest” the self-confessed fringe-player Ferdinand who maybe was the scapegoat from the previous two games, where 7 goals were conceded. Malbranque was brought back against his former team, he is now the last former Spur at the SSOL since Bent, Reid and Chimbonda moved on. To quote the Soccernet Spurs Correspondent: In recent weeks the focus has been on the team’s misfiring strikers and on Harry's failure to bring in a forward during the January transfer window, despite being associated with just about everyone going. Peter Crouch puts in a good effort when he plays but two league goals is a pretty abysmal haul for a centre forward…Defoe has admittedly suffered with injury but has looked worryingly out of sorts in recent weeks. Perhaps there has been too strong a focus on the Champions’ League, which would play in Sunderland’s favour with the AC Milan game looming. After two defeats the home team would see this game as a chance to put things right.
Apparently Steed Malbranque has had the most efforts on goal without scoring in the Premier League this season, and he was the first to really threaten, his shot being was back-heeled wide. Gyan put the home team ahead with a sparkling strike in the 11th minute, controlling a strong cross from Richardson and swivelling to drive across Gomez and into the far corner, and this was no less than the home side deserved for their positive start.
Defoe was on fire last season but has not scored in 2010-11, and today partnered Pavlyuchenko, who had his first real chance after 37 min., shooting wide, but overall neither Tottenham forward impressed. Then despite almost complete domination of the first half by the Black Cats, Spurs equalised, which must have improved Harry’s mood at half time. Dawson met a corner from the right with a header that crept in through Craig Gordon’s legs. To be fair to the Scot, Gallas made a move across him just as the ball bounced, but the keeper would have stopped it 9 times out of 10. There is no such thing as fair in football.
Gallas tried to catch Gordon out again in the 51st minute, but this time Gordon and Bardsley cleared. The game was still end-to-end and Malbranque almost beat Gomez from 12 yards, then Seesagnon stung the keepers’ fingers again a couple of minutes later. Mensah then headed out a harmless looking Sandro cross from Spurs’ right and the ball fell to Krancjar, who drove home on the volley for 2-1. Most fans would be thinking, would Turner have headed there? And as a defensive midfielder would Cattermole have been in place at the edge of the box to tackle Krancjar? Credit though to the Croat who also scored spectacularly against Bolton last week.
There was pretty constant pressure from the Lads for the rest of the second half, with a penalty claim from Richardson for handball, followed by a Muntari strike after 69 minutes and then Richardson hit the bar with an excellent strike after 78 minutes. Steve Bruce brought on Al Muhammadi and Zenden to provide the width the home team were lacking, but they created few real chances. Spurs scrapped for it and held out in the end. There was not much in it.
Sunderland need to drive home the advantage when they are dominating a game, but this is tough with just one recognised striker, talented though Gyan is. The obvious advice is for the defence to tighten up from set pieces.
So this is now the 3rd defeat on the trot since the signing of Muntari and Sesagnon, and they are clearly talented players, but are we using them correctly? They were all games in which we took the lead; we are clearly missing our injured players. We need Turner, Cattermole, Campbell and Welbeck back in the reckoning for places as soon as they are match fit, to halt the slide down to mid-table. Just like winning becomes a habit, so does losing…all teams have a bad run once in a season, and let us hope this is a short one from the Black Cats.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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