If Pete Sixsmith was unimpressed by Gareth Bale’s latest attempt to prove that possession of towering skills brings an entitlement to dive, he wants cruel, unusual and inhuman punishments introduced for the sort of theatrics shown by Defoe. As for Bale, he’s big club flavour of the month so MOTD pundits naturally sided with him; the least hint of contact, however trivial and even innocent, apparently means the player can go down to claim a penalty (as opposed to completing a superb run with a great goal). They were wrong. Pete nevertheless acclaims a strong Spurs performance that brought Sunderland down to earth a little after the heroics against Man City …
Let’s start off by saying that I thought that Spurs played well, looked a potential top four side and were as well balanced as any team I have seen this season.
I also thought that we played well in patches, showed a lot of resilience and possibly just about deserved a draw.
However, after the excitement and euphoria of Wednesday, it was a bit of an anti-climax to serve up in front of Monsieur Salut. Losing Danny Rose was a big blow and it showed the problems that we have with the squad in that there was no obvious replacement for the Tottenham loanee.
With hindsight (a gift that I have used with monotonous regularity throughout my life), Jack Colback would have been a better selection in that position. Matt Kilgallon did well enough, but when it came to the crunch in the 49th minute, he was found lacking and Aaron Lennon won the game for Spurs.
That rounded off a very disappointing three and a half minutes for us, as we had gifted them an equaliser courtesy of a Carlos Cuellar own goal. That came after we had given the ball away close to the visitors’ goal, forcing Cuellar to bring down the scampering Lennon.
The free kick was cleared but the resultant corner was headed in by the Spaniard, spoiling what was another good game for him. Then Lennon scored the winner.
Half time discussion had been firm on the fact that we needed to start well and maintain the pressure on the North London dilettantes. Alas, we were unable to do this until it was too late and instead of building on O’Shea’s goal, we were chasing the game.
We had done well in the first half and probably deserved to be ahead. If there were any natural justice, we would have been playing 10 men after an outrageous dive by Jermain Defoe, who, on losing control of the ball on the edge of our box, plunged to the ground and rolled over.
Martin Atkinson either failed to see it or ignored it. Had he acted on it, it was a booking, but this kind of blatant cheating should be a red card, a long suspension and then a ritual disembowelling.
The later stumble by Bale was the one that grabbed all the headlines and exercised the Brains Trust on MOTD on Saturday night. Bale was, according to the trio, the greatest player since goodness knows when. He was clearly clipped by Gardner and it was a bang on penalty – so they said.
What they failed to point out was that any player worth his salt would have retained his balance and gone on to wrap the game up with a third goal – always assuming that the Welsh Wonderboy could have got the ball past the excellent Simon Mignolet. Bale had had a decent game but not an outstanding one; my money would have been on our Belgian keeper saving it.
See also M Salut’s article and ensuing debate at ESPN – http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/864?cc=5739:
‘Graham Poll … supports the Bale decision and says the knee contact came only after Galloping Gareth had begun his tumble. I recognise … there are at least three views of this incident: dive, foul and no dive but also no foul’
Pete Sixsmith continues: I am old enough to remember Cliff Jones from the double winning side of 1961. He was as pacy as Bale, scored as many goals and, to the best of my knowledge, never once fell down as he was gently touched by a passing full back. Galloping Gareth could learn a lot from him.
This was another decent performance from us, albeit one that left us with nothing. Colback had an excellent game in a midfield where he was given plenty of room and Larsson worked hard to try to neutralise the base that Sandro (what a good player he is) and Dembele tried to give Spurs.
The two wingers were not quite as effective as on Wednesday, but McClean helped Kilgallon out an awful lot in the first half, showing that he is an important player when we are struggling.
Going forward, I felt that Fletcher looked a little tired, although Sessegnon had a good game and was routinely fouled by any passing Spurs player.
But, at the end of the day, they had a little bit too much for us. It was revealing that, when the final whistle went, their players, coaching staff and supporters did not hail Bale as their match winner. To a man they went to the French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who had had an outstanding last half hour, particularly when we were dropping some decent centres into the Spurs box. His punching the ball away was a great lesson for any aspiring keeper and I am sure that Mignolet will have learned a bit from Lloris.
The other results left us in a relatively comfortable position and the explosion of goals from Ashburton Grove cheered us up no end as the Salut! Sunderland Christmas Party congregated in The Garden of India in Darlington.
A point or three at Anfield on Wednesday would be more than welcome in our campaign for mid table respectability. However, after having faced Ridgewell and Bale, we are now up against a man who makes Tom Daley look like a novice; let’s hear it for Luis Suarez, a man who falls over at the drop of a hat. Could be an interesting night.
See also: Monsieur Salut talks all things Sunderland at ESPN FC:http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland?cc=5739