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Sunderland AFC v tottenham (A)...
match report

Sunderland lost 1-0 away at Tottenham in a game where we barely threatened the opposition and were only kept in the match by the heroics of our goalkeeper. An uninspiring performance was topped off by a clumsy individual error from Djilobodji to gift Spurs their winning goal, with Harry Kane left with the easy job of beating the keeper. Sunderland’s poor start continues.

Sunderland would be looking to make amends for their capitulation against Everton, which saw three goals conceded in the second half, though it could have been more. While Sunderland named an improved side that saw Cattermole return to the fold after months out injured, as well as Pienaar, Kirchhoff, and the debuting NDong in the centre, controversy would surround the starting XI after it was changed just a few minutes before kick-off.

Mannone

Denayer, Djilobodji, Kone, Manquillo

Cattermole, Kirchhoff, Pienaar, NDong

Januzaj

Defoe

While van Aanholt was initially announced to be in the starting line-up, he was replaced as the players retreated from their pre-match warmup, with an apparent injury. Denayer came in, meaning Manquillo was shifted to left back to accommodate the switch. In terms of the team’s shape, I was unsure how the midfield players would line up, but suspected that Kirchhoff would sit in front of the centre backs and dictate play from deep, while Cattermole charged down any advancing players. Pienaar and NDong would play slightly further forward, with a look to engineer attacks.

Spurs were the first team to threaten, after dominating the opening ten minutes. A cross was whipped into from the left-hand side by Heung-Min Son, who had looked Spurs’ most-threatening player up to that point. NDong and Denayer did little to stop the delivery, and after Kane got on the end of it, Pickford was fortunate to be positioned well, as the ball bounced off him and out for a corner before he really knew anything about it.

The home side would again go close in the sixteenth minute, after a dangerous cross met the head of Toby Alderweireld, who had escaped his man. Pickford was there to stop the ball, to the bemusement of the home supporters, who had already began celebrating after the powerful header was directed towards goal. Two important saves inside the first 20 minutes by Jordan Pickford.

Defoe did well to carve a half-chance for himself when a long ball from the back meant he had to pinch a couple of yards from Kyle Walker. He managed to do enough to get the shot off, and very nearly nutmegged Hugo Lloris, who blocked the ball instinctively as it ricocheted off his legs and away.

Sunderland would get into the game a lot more as they reached the half hour mark, with Cattermole seeing a lot of the ball in the centre of the pitch and Kirchhoff strangling Spurs’ attacks effectively. Spurs’ main threat was coming from the wings and from set pieces, as Son was allowed to stroll past Jason Denayer before taking a shot on. The stand-in full back was doing very little to quieten the South Korean, and that was taken advantage of. If it wasn’t for Pickford, Sunderland would be behind.

A huge chance for SAFC came in the 44th minute, after some clever footwork from Adnan Junzah saw him round Jan Vertonghen and square a ball to Steven Pienaar. It was just behind the South African though, which meant his shot at goal was not powerful enough to beat Kyle Walker, who cleared it off the line. By far Sunderland’s best chance of the game up to that point. Half-time came soon after.

Spurs had dominated the first half, without doubt, but the late opportunity for Sunderland would ensure both sides went in knowing that the game was there for the taking. While Tottenham had seen more of the ball, and subsequently done more with it, all it took for Sunderland was a long clearance and a clever bit of footwork to forge a chance. While there were many negatives for Sunderland in terms of poor ball retention and certain players not looking like they knew where they fit in the system, there were also a few positives. Cattermole and NDong were chasing down every loose ball, with Kirchoff taking up much more of a stationary position. This allowed Pienaar, Janujaz, and Defoe to enjoy much more dynamic movement in the final third, with a bank of three seemingly defensive-minded players behind them to feed the ball as well as win it back. Ultimately, though, Jordan Pickford was the man who had kept Sunderland in the game, after pulling off a series of impressive stops.

The sides emerged for the second half unchanged. Spurs would pick up where they left off, trying to unlock Sunderland’s defence. Denayer was eventually booked after Son got the better of him too many times, and Sunderland barely got the ball out of their half in the opening 15 minutes after the restart. We had failed to impress since kicking off again, and with a weak bench to fall back on, things didn’t look great when Spurs inevitably took the lead.

Goal – Spurs – 58 mins – Harry Kane

Spurs eventually broke the deadlock after a cross from the right was headed back across the face of goal by Dele Alli. Djilobodji blocked it, and should have cleared his lines, but a slack touch knocked the ball straight into the path of Harry Kane, who had the easy task of putting it past Pickford.

Steven Pienaar was subbed for Duncan Watmore, who had an opportunity to play Defoe in but delivered an inaccurate cross/shot that was both beyond Defoe and the far post. NDong, Cattermole, Denayer, and Manquillo had been booked by this point, so there was a feeling it could all go wrong at any second, particularly as Spurs were still piling on the pressure.

Sunderland were no longer in the game, though Spurs weren’t anywhere near as threatening as they had been in the first period. With plenty of impact players set to come off the home bench, however, Sunderland could not afford to let Spurs have too much of the ball. Kirchhoff was subbed for Wahbi Khazri, which spelled the last throw of the dice for Moyes as he tried to introduce attacking players. In doing so, though, he sacrificed our most cultured defensive midfielder.

Spurs had a late chance to seal the win, with Lamela breaking free from the Sunderland defence, but a fantastic save at full stretch from Pickford kept the match at 1-0. Adnan Januzaj, who had already been booked for dissent, left his foot in a challenge just as the game reached the 90th minute, and was appropriately awarded a second yellow for his foolishness. We would have to finish the match with 10 men. Spurs had a late chance to extend the lead, but fluffed their lines and sent the ball over the bar. If not for their attacking incompetence, and Pickford’s goalkeeping heroics, the match would have swung a lot more in their favour, as the Sunderland defence was all over the shop in the second half. 

Final Score: Spurs 1-0 Sunderland

ALS Man of the Match: Jordan Pickford

Chris Thompson

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