First of all, everybody agreed this was a good game – end to end, with great chances for both teams. Sunderland kept erstwhile captain Lee Cattermole on the bench, but featured Wickham and Sessegnon up front. Spurs are on an amazing home run, 6 wins with 2 goals conceded since that memorable 5-goal disaster versus Manchester City.
The Black Cats lined up as follows: 20 Westwood, 02 Bardsley (McClean 69), 05 Brown, 11 Richardson, 16 O'Shea, 19 Bramble, 07 Larsson, 14 Colback (Gardner 75), 15 Vaughan, 28 Sessegnon and 10 Wickham (Bendtner 46). Unused substitutes were 24 Carson, 06 Cattermole, 27 Elmohamady, 17 Ji Dong-Won.
Spurs were missing strikers but still had a lot of firepower, although Van der Vaart has been a bit quiet recently: 24 Friedel, 13 Gallas, 26 King, 28 Walker, 32 Assou-Ekotto, 07 Lennon (27), 08 Parker, 11 Van der Vaart (Rose 89), 14 Modric, 30 Sandro (Livermore 82), 10 Adebayor, with unused subs. 23 Cudicini, 19 Bassong, 21 Kranjcar, 29 Livermore, 40 Pienaar.
This will only be a brief report as I will soon be heading for Loftus Road, for the QPR away game tonight, so expect another insightful and unbiased report on this page again shortly as the Lads complete a double-header in London, where they were undefeated last season. I have seen Sunderland 3 times at Rangers, with a 1-0 win in December 1997, Niall Quinn late on, an exciting 2-2 draw also in the Peter Reid era (January 1999), and a horrible, unfair 1983 0-3 reverse on the old 1980s plastic pitch – so glad they are not playing on that trashy surface tonight – having played a few times on Astroturf, that surface with its unusual bounce gives the home team an advantage.
The first half a Tottenham was much like a result-less joust, entertaining and engaging but with the two teams ultimately cancelling each other out; defences were largely in charge. On 33 min. however, there was a great move from with ball swinging from Sessegnon to Larsson, who delivered the ball to Richardson, who just could not apply the finishing touch. What a great season our number 11 is having. Spurs also probed well but could not breachthe Sunderland rearguard. Lennon burst forward on 27 min., pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring issue, and was replaced by Pavlyuchenko, which eventually led to the Soccernet headline: “Sunderland sunk by Russian Sub.”
Seb Larsson was having his typical intelligent game, his confidence is justifiably high at the moment. Pavwhatshisname missed from a superb Scotty Parker cross on 44 min with 3rd choice keeper Westwood out of goal; I have always been an admirer of the former Hammers, Newcastle and Chelsea midfielder, who has looked the complete player for club and country this season.
Just after the hour mark there was great pressing from Spurs, just as the Cats were looking comfortable, and Colback missed a great chance to go ahead, when he failed to get a shot away. We forget how young he is. But seconds after Spurs broke the deadlock when Pavlyuchenko, who had looked a little off the pace, provided a fine low finish across keeper Keiren Westwood from a sublime reverse pass from Van der Vaart. The Cats’ keeper had no chance. The Russian's calm finish settled Tottenham's nerves and they should have added a second in the final 30 min. when Modric fluffed a hugely easy chance, shooting over rather than into an open goal, after Westwood parried Adebayor's initial chipped effort. Adebayor has never scored against Sunderland.
I often wonder why players miss so many chances; they train all week and fluff things which would be so simple if 36000 people were not watching…but I suppose football is really 90 minutes of trying crazy, speculative passing moves, and only a few of them really come off as intended...but those are great to watch!
There was a late chance for Bendtner, after a great 1-2 with our star Sess, but he mis-hit the drive when off balance. So a solid but ultimately pointless effort, but nothing to be discouraged about. I reckon we came close to giving as good as we got, and there was plenty of effort as the Lads tried to impress their new manager. On this form they could well see off QPR, watch this space.
©Lars J.S. Knutsen