Sunderland 2 Newcastle United 1
Sunday 27 October 1.30pm
Maybe the story of this match is best summed up by the number of changes Alan Pardew made to his formation and to a lesser extent alterations to his personnel today.
Remy started left hand side and then went up front, only to be replaced by Shola.
While Sissoko was all over the place before getting dragged off at half-time.
Sunderland predictably came out like headless chickens from the first whistle and kept it up for around thirty or so minutes before fading away. Sadly United never looked likely to take advantage as increasing possession wasn’t matched by any urgency to attack and numbers at the back repeatedly saw those in black and white go down blind alleys.
On the subject of headless chickens, that summed up Newcastle’s defending from a short corner on five minutes, a short corner saw Remy not committed enough in cutting out Johnson’s cross and he had all the time in the world to loft it to Fletcher who easily nodded home at the back post.
Krul may have made a better effort to try and chase down the cross while Dummett showed both his inexperience and the fact he isn’t a centre-back as he didn’t even get off the ground to challenge Fletcher.
With limited space to run into, Gouffran and Sissoko were anonymous, while Remy and Ben Arfa offerered next to nothing in terms of penetration. Tiote was easily the best player on the pitch but alongside him Cabaye did ok but didn’t provide the necessary inspiration, though the lack of movement in front of him made his job almost impossible.
The changes Pardew did make in both personnel and formation were like shifting deck chairs around on the Titanic, as they had little impact on Newcastle’s lack of cutting edge. Luckily Sunderland showed why they were bottom of the league as their early chasing left them looking increasingly knackered as the game went on.
As often happens in these matches, just when you wonder where a goal can come from it arrives from an unusual route. Ben Arfa wide left hit a hopeful long range shot which evaded everybody apart from Debuchy whose long range ambitious run was rewarded with a close range easy finish.
Sunderland looked as though they had been read the last rites as they waited for the inevitable, only for it never to arrive. A few of the home players were dead on their feet as Newcastle increasingly found space to move the ball around but didn’t show the ambition to out the opposition away.
While individual players have to take responsibility, the constant chopping and changing of tactics didn’t reflect well on Pardew who watched impotently from the sidelines.
Later he complained about whether or not it was a free-kick but that was all a bit feeble as Sunderland took a quick free-kick on our left halfway up the pitch, the ball moved to the middle where Borini hit a stunner from outside the box which the defence, Dummett in particular, failed to close down.
The natives predictably milked the winner and I simply wondered how Pardew had conspired to lose against such limited opposition who had such a narrow obvious game plan.
This isn’t (just) to devalue Sunderland’s moment of glory but they were really rubbish and why Newcastle didn’t take advantage could come back to haunt us with Manchester City, Chelsea and Spurs up next. If the players can’t get up for a match like this then it could be worrying times ahead.
Sunderland: Westwood, Bardsley (Celustka 77), O’Shea, Cuellar, Dossena, Larsson, Cattermole (Sung-Yueng 70), Colback, Johnson (Borini 69), Altidore, Fletcher
Newcastle: Krul, Debuchy, Dummett, Williamson, Santon, Tiote, Sissoko (Cisse 46), Cabaye, Gouffran (Sammy 87), Ben Arfa, Remy (Shola 70)
Unused Subs: Elliot, Anita, Haidara, Obertan
Ref: Lee Probert
Crowd: 46,313 (2,800 Away)
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