Sunderland made a few changes from Saturday’s excellent draw at Everton, leaving out O’Shea for debutant Kyrgiakos and bringing in Gardner for Colback, in the following line-up: 22 Mignolet, 02 Bardsley, 03 Bridge (Colback - 77'), 04 Turner, 25 Kyrgiakos, 07 Larsson, 08 Gardner, 15 Vaughan, 23 McClean, 09 Campbell (Ji Dong-Won - 72'), 52 Bendtner.
It is interesting to compare notes on the team with which Martin O’Neill won his first game for the Cats against Blackburn in December 2011, and I am sure that I was not the only person looking for distractions in what proved to be a dire first half. Anyway, the line-up on December 11 at the SSOL was 20 Westwood, 02 Bardsley, 05 Brown, 11 Richardson, 16 O'Shea, 19 Bramble, 07 Larsson, 14 Colback, 15 Vaughan, 28 Sessegnon, 10 Wickham, so only 3 players survived from that day, Bardsley, Larsson and Vaughan. Had not really thought the turnover in the team had been that great.
Blackburn fielded 01 Robinson, 03 Mn Olsson, 16 Dann, 31 Hanley, 10 Formica (Orr – 79’), 12 Pedersen, 15 Nzonzi, 21 Ms Olsson, 35 Lowe, 23 Hoilett, 24 Yakubu.
This game was an anticlimax after Saturday’s excellent fighting display at Everton. I know how Martin O’Neill manages to coax remarkable displays from his team, in the Peter Reid “do it for me” mode, but at some point the collective well runs dry and this was one of those nights.
No protests about the result, though - Blackburn played with gusto and confidence for 2 back to back wins and clean sheets. It was a flat performance from Sunderland – but to be fair Blackburn were up for it, seeing the urgency to get away from the bottom three in this league.
I have a sneaking respect for what Steve Kean has achieved at Blackburn despite the terrible adversity he and the team have experienced. He has taken so much negativity, especially from his own so-called fans but has come out fighting despite the personal insults, and the departure of key players like Samba. Any why are there so many Scottish managers in the Prem.? I make it 8 out of 20 clubs.
Very few of the visiting players came out with any credit – Mignolet, Bardsley Bendtner and MacLean showed some skill and commitment, although the Dane did lope around too much outside the box, but showed some good touches. Larsson showed little quality where he usually excels – crossing the ball. We had 7 corners, but threatened very little from those.
The first goal was symptomatic of Sunderland’s evening – a long throw was defended poorly by Mignolet, who punched it too low to the edge of the box, where it was met by Hoilett who drove it back in and it eluded Turner on the line. But the margins were still narrow despite the number of players who did not show u on the night.
On 70 min, Bendtner got on the end of a cross from MacLean after a great set-up from Bridge, and somehow was tackled by Olsson. But worse was to come on 77 min., with a truly horrible from Ji after another great cross driven low by MacLean, who stuck to his task admirably.
There is no holding back a great finisher, and after a wonderful cross from Lowe on 86 min. Yakubu scored with a great header.
Overall, there were few quality moments from the Lads, but Scott Dann, Formica and Junior Hoylett were excellent for the home team. We are missing Sessegnon and Cattermole, players this game was crying out for, as well as some of the other seven players who featured against Blackburn when we last beat them.
We lost, we move on, it is in the past - tomorrow at the SSOL is another day...
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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