Sunderland’s attritional and unambitious attitude set the tone for this game. Martin O’Neill’s rope-a-dope tactics relied for success on us becoming so desperate for the three points that we’d leave holes at the back big enough for Mclean and Bendtner to take advantage of. This never happened as the latter was firmly tucked into Kaboul’s back pocket and the former when he did find space only ever crossed low enough to risk bruising the ankles of the waiting Spurs first defender. Add in Larsson’s dead ball deliveries and you’ve pretty much covered all of the home team’s attacking threat. It must’ve been all a bit disappointing for the Stadium of Light fans who might have expected more given their team’s recent form, or maybe they knew what was coming and that’s why they failed to sell out on the day.
The negativity threw sharply into relief our inability to ‘score when we want’. We had masses of possession but created only a few half chances. Van der Vaart had a couple of shots blocked, Modric hit one on the turn, Benny just missed the far post and Bale put a header just over the bar. By far the clearest chance it seemed to me (from a distance of 270 miles) came to Adebayor who should’ve done better with a free header but then was unlucky to see a penalty not given when the ball struck Bardsley’s outstretched arm. The defender was in no way attempting to avoid possible impact, perhaps by pulling his arm behind his body as is the modern fashion, so couldn’t have complained if the ref had blown, the man in the middle though was Chris Foy who, as we know from the Britannia, wouldn’t give handball if Meadowlark Lemon suddenly appeared in the six yard box.
Sandro’s typically all action display contained several moments where he appeared to be attempting to inject some entertainment singlehandedly into the proceedings. Numerous times he casually conceded possession in dangerous areas and then towards the hour mark was lucky not to be sent off for a two footed challenge. His booking was the cue for Aaron Lennon’s appearance from the bench. He looked dangerous but finding a decisive gap in the massed ranks of red and white was beyond him, and indeed anyone.
On the surface, given Sunderland’s recent form, this is a good point. Their decision before the game though that a draw was all they wanted makes it slightly harder to swallow. History will tell what magnitude of importance our inability to break them down once they’d decided to sit back has. Six games left now of which, according to Harry, we need to win five. Norwich on Monday needs to be win number one. COYS.
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