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Sunderland AFC v swansea (h)...
LINES FROM LONDON: EXILES BLOG

I enjoyed most of last Saturday’s game and our players looked more relaxed themselves. I think we’ll do okay again this afternoon and I’m expecting us to win, which is a feeling I haven’t had for a while.

Hull are away to Palace tomorrow and I don’t fancy their chances there much but Swansea are still in deep trouble and will be going for it today no doubt. We’ll be without Honeyman through injury and that’s a blow as he’s always looked sharp and we need to try to hang on to him for next season. We can still catch Boro, who play Southampton and that won’t be easy, so that gives us something to aim at. Of course this will be the last time that a number of our players will be seen in our colours at the SoL. It’ll be a shame to say goodbye to Defoe, and Pickford if he goes, but I won’t shed a tear about Borini, Januzaj and others. My tickets for the Arsenal and Chelsea games have just arrived but I’ll be watching today’s match on the laptop. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

Seb was in for Honeyman while Oviedo was back on the bench after injury. Ki was starting for Swansea. I got the match online and there were plenty of empty seats but still a lot of racket from the fans. I was pleased to hear that the Swansea fans had made a substantial contribution to Bradley Lowery’s fund. We made a bright start culminating in an Ndong effort that went just wide. That was just after tremendous applause for Bradley all round the stadium as his giant flag was passed overhead. But it was Swansea who took the lead in the eighth minute when from a Sigurdsson free-kick way out on the right Llorente got to the ball ahead of the onrunning Pickford and headed into the net. Swansea proceeded to dominate and with an extra man in midfield they were giving us the runaround so we moved Borini back to try to compensate. In the eighteenth minute we conceded a free-kick in what the commentator called “Sigurdsson territory” but this time Pickford saved it easily.

Denayer had to be replaced by Gibson following the tackle that had given away the free-kick and that’s probably the last we’ll see of him. We started to put together a few decent attacks but Swansea looked cool at the back and dealt comfortably with whatever we tried. Next thing Anichebe went down and it looked like a hamstring problem but he battled on. Borini put in a great cross for him from the right but he didn’t jump and it seemed like he wouldn’t last much longer. We won a couple of corners not long after the half-hour mark but Fabianski dealt with both. Then Big Vic had to go off and he got a very good ripple from our fans. He was replaced by Khazri. I hope we can renew Vic’s contract as he’s a battler and should do well in the Championship. In the dying minutes we had plenty of possession but didn’t make much progress up the pitch and you could hear the frustration of our fans. In the final minute of stoppage-time Swansea surely put the result beyond doubt when Ki fed Naughton at the right angle of our box and he smashed it into the top left corner. There was plenty of booing as the whistle went.

My pre-match prediction was now beginning to look a tad optimistic and it seemed that Swansea could well end up winning 4-0 unless we could come out fighting and get an early goal. There were a lot more empty seats as we kicked off again. Khazri had been moved inside to try to stop us getting swamped in midfield. We started a bit brighter and finally won a free-kick in the fifty-seventh minute that Seb hit on target but a deflection, quite possibly by an arm, deflected it towards Fabianski. Seb wasn’t too chuffed and got a yellow for his troubles. Khazri had a decent shot off the turf that went just wide and I thought that we could snatch one back. Fer replaced Ki midway through the half and the latter got a good round from our fans. I wish we’d hung onto him. Apparently the Swansea players had paid for their three thousand fans to come to the game and were also paying for the hospitality. I wondered why their fans were making such a noise.

The first thing Fer did was splatter Borini and Khazri hit a great free-kick that Fabianski pushed into the path of Jones but he couldn’t stick it in the net. I suppose goals in consecutive games would have been a bit much to hope for. We were having much more of the possession as Swansea sat back and rarely threatened our goal. There was a right kerfuffle when Khazri stamped on Sigurdsson and he was lucky to get away with a just yellow card. Khazri and Defoe both had good attempts in rapid succession and we winning plenty of corners. Many of our fans were taking an early exit, not wishing to stick around for any lap of dishonour. Borini became our fourth player to get a yellow and Seb still looked like he was seething. In the final minute Khazri had another shot on target but Fabianski had it covered again. Afterwards the camera focused on the Swansea celebrations but finally switched to Defoe, together with Mannone, walking around the pitch to applaud each set of fans.

Swansea looked a cut above us today and that’s why they’re almost certainly staying up. I suppose Hull’s a lot easier to get to than Swansea so look on the bright side.

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