Pete Sixsmith is full of praise, as were the supporters, for the spirit and, often enough, skill shown by Kevin Ball’s men. We can moan about the latest in a string of Howard Webb decisions adversely affecting Sunderland teams. Bottom line, though, is another defeat with nothing in the forthcoming cluster if fixtures to suggest happier days arejust around the corner …
Well, at least we are consistent. That’s four league games in a row where we have conceded three goals leaving us with a goals against deficit that looks like a Royal Bank of Scotland balance sheet. That one of the goals probably should have been disallowed for handball is scant consolation.
There was plenty of spirit and some bright periods of play where we pushed a more composed Liverpool team almost to the limit. But when it came to the important bits – putting the ball in their net and stopping them from putting it in ours – we were found wanting.
There were chances. Larsson hit the bar with an excellent free kick and who knows what might have happened had that gone in. As it was, Liverpool opened the scoring four minutes later, when a corner from Gerrard was ignored by Westwood and our defenders and was bundled in by Sturridge.
Replays showed that he used his arm to get it across the line, something that I failed to see 80 yards away in the East Stand and the referee’s assistant failed to see from 15 yards. Pointless asking Howard Webb, who once again showed why he is the second best referee in his house after Mrs Webb.
However, why was it that, once again, we conceded from a set piece? I would suggest that Westwood elected to stay on his line after recalling that West Brom had scored from a poor punch. He does not command his box at all and he cannot rely on defenders who consistently fail to attack the ball. As a result far too often, we are chasing the game.
Eight minutes later, the lumbering Carlos Cuellar was taken to the cleaners by the sharp, pacy Sturridge whose excellent low cross was turned in at the far post by The Man You Love To Hate aka Luis Suarez. It was a real poacher’s goal but nobody had picked him up, all having moved into the centre to try to make up for Cuellar’s slip.
Cuellar was horribly exposed and, despite recovering and having a decent second half, will continue to be so if he remains in the team for any length of time. I understand Kevin Ball picking players that he knows, and I know that Diakite is injured, but many felt that Sturridge would not have been able to create that goal had there been a quicker defender up against him.
We still had a chance to get back into it when Cattermole dinked a ball into the box and Gardner failed to beat Mignolet. 2-1 at half time might have lifted the team and there was some consolation that we had played quite well – but not well enough when it mattered.
There was a buzz about the ground generated by an appearance of the victorious Durham County Cricket Club team and that buzz became a roar when Giaccherini took advantage of a parry by Mignolet to pull a goal back five minutes into the second half.
Again, we had Liverpool rocking, but the lack of a goalscorer severely hampered us. Altidore worked hard, but does not look remotely like a 10 goal a season man – which he has to be in the absence of Fletcher.
The third goal from Suarez wrapped it up two minutes from the end and the players left the field to rousing applause and a feeling of goodwill from the crowd. Plenty of effort and some skill on show – Giaccherini is great fun to watch at the moment and Cattermole had a good game until his legs went on the hour. Colback and Henderson had a real tussle down the left hand side as befits former team mates and I would say that Jack got the better of Jordan.
Had we had a few points on the board and lost this one, I would be fairly sanguine, but our position worsens week by week. This was the first of a spell of four which pitch us against two title contenders, a team who play some of the best football in the division and that lot from up the road.
We have but a single point; by this time in 2005, we had collected four after Julio Arca and Tommy Miller had won the game for us at Middlesbrough. So, we are behind that team and although we have better players this time round, there is no guarantee that the excellent spirit we saw today will last if we suffer three more consecutive defeats – and the signs suggest that we might.
Gary Bennett suggested that the club may well wait until after the Manchester United game before making an appointment. They seem determined not to rush into this and make sure that they get the right man. Names are being thrown up all the time – Sean Dyche of Burnley cropped up today – but Poyet remains favourite with the bookies.
Whoever takes over needs to address the problems that we have had for years: goals needlessly given away and chances not taken when offered up.
It’s that easy.
* See also: Monsieur Salut has his say at ESPN: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/2160?cc=5739
Losing 3-1 at home to a strong Liverpool side once again chasing honours would not, in itself, give reason for alarm.
But five defeats in just six Premier games so far, with Manchester United next up as the fixtures list gets tougher still, is not just relegation form; it is the stuff of records of the wrong kind.
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