Sunderland lost 2-0 away to West Brom in a game where our players looked tired, our set pieces unorganised, and our defence more brittle than a Dime bar.
We lined up as follows:
Jones, O'Shea, Djilobodji, van Aanholt,
Denayer, Rodwell, Larsson, Honeyman,
Honeyman retained his place in the starting XI after looking lively during our cup defeat at Burnley. Moyes could have picked Love or Borini today, but he picked Honeyman based on form and hunger. It's always a gamble throwing the kids into a relegation battle, but Honeyman earned the chance to prove himself in his first Premier League start.
The game settled into a slow pace very early on, with Defoe the only Sunderland player eager to get a shot off. PvA is also urgent in attack, which is both a strength and a weakness. I think a player like van Aanholt would do well in a mid-table side, where the defence tends to be more stable and so can afford a wandering full back. Not Sunderland, however, which is why Paddy can often be at fault for conceded goals. It's still essential that we hang on to him, though.
West Brom completed the signing of Jake Livermore yesterday, a tidy edition to their already solid midfield of Darren Fletcher, Chris Brunt, and James Morrison. Not to mention Matt Phillips or Nacer Chadli. Our midfield is neither here nor there, especially with Ndong away at the AFCON. The Gabon international's absence is perhaps more telling of his quality than his actual presence in the side indicates.
The Baggies went ahead after Sunderland failed repeatedly to clear a corner, resulting in a game of 18-yard box head tennis for the attacking side. When the ball came to Darren Fletcher, he controlled it expertly on the turn and volleyed it into the net. A great goal, but more terrified, piss-weak defending from Sunderland.
It wasn't long before West Brom went 2-0 up, this time after Matt Phillips went around O'Shea like he wasn't there before squaring the ball across goal. Chadli fudged his lines initially, hitting the bar, but Brunt was there on the rebound to finish emphatically. Two great finishes by the home side, but two clear chances gifted to them by the incompetent Sunderland defence.
When the game resumed after half-time, the crowd began cheering ironically after every completed Sunderland pass. With another sold out away end, it's relieving that our fans still retain a sense of humour.
While we couldn't find any gaps, we started drawing fouls in dangerous areas. A series of free kicks were won but subsequently wasted. Van Aanholt is wasteful, while Seb Larsson's set piece delivery has been poor for a long time now, diminishing further than Lovefilm, Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines', and Sunny Delight.
The away fans were chanting for Anichebe, and the behemoth striker arrived in the 66th minute, replacing Januzaj. He also received a generous applause from the home side, in recognition of his service at the Hawthorns.
Denayer was forced off after taking the ball full-pelt to his bollocks. Poor lad. Borini was his replacement with 10 minutes left, as James McClean emerged for the home side. His reception from the Sunderland fans was as expected.
Sunderland won a free kick 30 yards out and chose to take it short. The inevitable mis-placed resulted in a counter attack for West Brom, George Honeyman having to hack down Matt Phillips to prevent a third goal. Possibly the worst set piece in the history of football, no exaggeration.
For all our efforts to bring Anichebe into the game, it wasn't to be. West Brom had already identified our marginal attacking presence and took steps to shut it down. The game crawled towards a close with West Brom happy to watch us struggle to string two passes together, like holding a midget at arm's length, swiftly kicking him in the bollocks every 30 seconds or so.
The Sunderland crowd began chanting 'we're fucking shit', which is probably a more succinct match report than I could ever provide.
Final Score: West Brom 2-0 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: George Honeyman, who grafted in vain
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