Sunderland lost 4-1 away to Burnley in a game where an already threadbare SAFC squad lost yet more players to injury, resulting in an embarrassing capitulation that made the Clarets' hat-trick hero Andre Gray look like Eric Cantona.
I'm not sure why we're playing a fixture on New Year's Eve, having always enjoyed a football match to start the new year, but it presented itself as a great chance to see out another bizarre year at Sunderland with a positive result. It wouldn't be easy though; Turf Moor is a proper football stadium and Burnley seem to enjoy playing there, having won 19 of their 20 league points at home.
With Sunderland having such a small squad, coupled with the latest injury and selection crisis, O'Shea was named in the squad along with our established centre back pairing of Kone and Djilobodji.
Jones, Kone, Djilobodji, PvA
Januzaj, Borini, Defoe, Anichebe
We lined up with O'Shea in the centre with Seb Larsson, while Januzaj and Anichebe hugged the right and left wings respectively. Borini would play just off Defoe who would be the clear target for any chance creation. I'm a big fan of Borini in the middle of the pitch, as long as he doesn't inhibit Defoe in any way.
An early chance fell for Januzaj after some good work from Borini and then Anichebe to open Burnley up, but the Belgian couldn't keep his shot down from outside the box. Neither side could really establish themselves in the game for the first quarter of an hour, but that suited Sunderland, who would be happy to sap the energy out of the home side until the hype from their support died down a little.
O'Shea and Larsson were quite steady in their midfield partnership. O'Shea more standoffish while Larsson chased down the ball and put pressure on any chance creators. It was working swimmingly until Kone injured himself after colliding with an advertising board. NDong came on for the Ivorian which prompted JOS to drop back into his natural centre back position. NDong seems to have been dropped based on form, after a mistake against Man Utd, so this was a good chance for him to show his worth after being doubted by the manager.
The deadlock was broken after half an hour when Djilobodji and O'Shea leapt for the same ball, resulting in it bouncing to Burnley danger man Andre Gray, who had the simple task of beating Mannone one-on-one. Vito got a hand to it but it wasn't enough to keep it out; it wasn't a particularly smart finish and Mannone probably should have saved it, but it's easy to blame the goalkeeper. Calamitous defending.
Sunderland din't respond well to the goal. Januzaj had already gone missing in the game after his head dropped following his failure to complete a step-over. O'Shea and Bodgie looked no closer to figuring out their partnership, either, with Burnley finding gaps between the two players to create a series of half-chances. Defoe had barely touched the ball.
Moyes started to lay into Januzaj, prompting the player to go on an impressive solo run up the right-hand side, beating a couple of players, before finding Borini in the centre. Unfortunately, the Italian's lightning strike was blocked before reaching the goal, where it was surely hitting the target.
Sunderland have only scored once from a set piece this season, which is remarkable given how fruitful set pieces were under Allardyce. When we won a free kick in the 47th minute, Larsson's delivery was so impotent that it resulted in another player being injured. The ball was cleared and chased by Anichebe, who pulled up clutching his hamstring. More injury woe for Sunderland right on half-time.
What does a manager do when all of his players are either injured, unavailable for selection, or shite? He can't do much, can he? He opted to bring on Steven Pienaar, with Rodwell presumably not fit enough to play 45 minutes. It goes to show how threadbare our squad is when you have to name substitutes not fit enough to play a half of football.
Play had been restarted for but five minutes when Burnley doubled their lead. Andre Gray was giving Djilobodji a torrid time, proving far too pacey for the anxiety-inducing defender. Bodgie failed to check the run of Gray after making no effort to keep up with him, and after Mannone failed to meet the ball after racing out for it, the Burnley player was allowed to double his tally with an easy finish into an open goal.
3-0 came soon after. This time Burnley carved open the whole Sunderland defence with the type of well-worked chance that a confident side is capable of — haven't seen Sunderland play as confidently since our win against Hull last month.
With Sunderland frustrated beyond remedy, Seb Larsson charged in heavily on a Burnley player inside the box and gave away a penalty. It was duly converted and Sunderland found themselves 4-0 down against Burnley. Nothing short of humiliating, really.
Bizarrely, and despite not having managed a shot on target in the full game, we responded with a goal. Januzaj dinked a lovely ball over the top to Defoe, who controlled well in front of goal and smashed it in. A good goal that will be lost inside a genuinely torrid performance.
Donald Love came on for O'Shea, which begs the question what must Wahbi Khazri do to get a game for Sunderland? We've surely seen the last of the enigmatic Tunisian with January not 24 hours away.
It ended 4-1 and in truth the scoreline flattered us. We were pathetic and if that performance doesn't tell Ellis Short that we need money to spend in January, nothing will. Your move, Mr Chairman.
Final Score: Burnley 4-1 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Travelling fans on a bitter New Year's Eve.
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