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Sunderland AFC v man city (h)...
sobs' blog

Like the weather, we were bright in parts, and threatened a bit at times, but didn't have enough quality when and where it mattered. City, on the other hand, did, and virtually jogged through the second half top claim all three points with a goal either side of the break. Mind, City fans would do well to remember that David Moyes might really be a football genius if he could point at any player int he world and say "I want", and have a bench that cost over £100 million. Just saying, like.

Last week's result at Everton naturally did nothing for the preservation of our Premier league status, even if we weren't that much worse than the Toffees - but it's points that win prizes, not "doing sort of OK in a non-creative way". That gets you precisely bugger-all, 'cos nearly isn't good enough at any level, but especially in the theatre (in both senses of the word) of the Premier League, where at times it seems like players and teams are going through the motions of a carefully-written script. The enforced handshakes as the Prem theme tune is churned out pre-match. The fact that every second is replayed in ultra slow motion from every angle, letting you see that many fouls are given when no contact has been made, because players go down before the challenge arrives, always clutching the same part of their leg (the middle of the shin) or their face. Players slapping the turf in supposed agony before having a little sip of Lucozade Isotonic and jumping back to their feet. Players having the shirt off on opponent's back but protesting their innocence in dramatic fashion because being dramatic is all part of the show. It's almost like pretend football, but it wouldn't be nearly so bad if we just won a game or three. Then I'd be all happy again and wouldn't be ranting on about it being false.

Anyway, identifying which games we have a chance of winning has been the talk of the week. Honestly, there are those amongst us who believe that there are winnable games out there, because if we didn't we might as well give up and go home -although there have been times when it's looked like those on the field have and most of the crowd follow suit on75 minutes. These games are against teams around (OK, immediately above) us. Swansea (getting better), Hull (trying but thankfully getting nowhere), Bournemouth (dropping like a stone), Leicester (unfortunately proving that sacking Ranieri was the right thing to do, and that all the self-righteous, indignation-ridden rants about lack of loyalty are missing the point. Which is what Leicester were doing under Ranieri), West Ham (can't be trusted), and Boro (doomed) are all on our fixture list, and these are the ones to win. Pick up anything from Man U, Chelsea, or Arsenal and it's a bonus.

The FA Cup, and an International break means that we have only two games in March, which is good for the likes of Kirchoff, as we can ease him back and ensure he's 100% ready to do some damage to the teams in the "must win" games listed above.

All of this worrying about these "winnable" games is adding to our woes. Football, or rather Sunderland, is making me tired. It's getting me down. It probably wouldn't if we were winning, as it would be exciting, enjoyable, and therefore worth looking forward to. As it is, match attendance is a bit of a chore but something that we can't stop doing. A lift in the quality of our performances is needed to lift our spirits - just like it did at Palace, which was a proof positive that we do have that sort of performance in us.

It being a late kick-off, we set off at the usual time, 'cos we're daft like that in Bishop. In fact, we usually set off for later games earlier than normal, but today we let our heads rules our hearts - and planned a Sunday dinner in Fitzy's. Well, curry and chips counts, and it did nicely as we discussed how to beat City. Or get anything out of the game. Obviously, they score a lot of goals, but Pep's insistence on telling the keeper that he's Johann Cruyff means that, as well as having a not particularly good goalkeeper, they have an accident waiting to happen as they try to play the ball out of defence. Do what Defoe said, and be ruthless when he makes a passing mistake. Never trust a keeper who wears his sleeves short, or tries to play football...and try to stay relatively cheerful.

With Denayer unavailable against his owners, Moyes opted for no changes, so we kicked off south:
Pickford
Jones O'Shea Kone Oviedo
Gibson Seb Ndong
Januzaj Borini
Defoe

We started with both fullbacks pushing forward, which is fair enough as it's pointless trying to defend deep against City. They managed an early shot welk over after a couple of minutes, then we moved well down the right, with some good tackling from Ndong, but all Jones's cross hit was Kolarov's nuts

Jones was in action at the back to clear a City corner, setting Kone away on one of those worrying and exhilarating runs, but the eventual cross was cleared. Borini tried a longish ball to Defoe, but it was a tad too strong, then Januzaj mazed his way through the Blue defence to the edge of the box but opted to try a flick to Defoe rather than a shot and the ball was cleared. With Caballero in goal, there was less of a chance of a wayward pass out of defence, but the option was still there with the way they played.

Seb had to put in a decent block at the expense of a corner, which we defended adequately, and we actually held on to the ball for a while, culminating in a decent move which ended when Defoe fired off the keeper's right hand post, and Borini seemed to slip as he went for the rebound, and headed it wide. That just about summed up Fabio's afternoon -lots of chasing but nothing quite coming off.

O'Shea was booked on the half hour for a foul just in our half which prevented a City break, but the ref was generally lenient, as Seb will testify. We put in a few crosses, Billy Jones saw a header saved low down from a corner, then headed another corner wide of the back post as he made a nonsense of £50 million John Stones's ability in the air.

We were looking sort of worth going in level, despite being arguably the better side, because City have a ludicrous amount of quality all over the field (well,almost all over) which could click into gear at any time. Oh, and Aguero, so when, on 41, they broke down our left and Sterling put in a cross, O'Shea and Kone seemed just to watch as the little Argentinian moved for the ball when they didn't and scored probably the simplest goal of his life from all of a yard.

Harsh? Mebbe, but like Defoe said, unless you punish every mistake City make, they'll have you. An added minute just saw them see the half out, and it ended with four chances, none converted, to us, and two, one converted, to City.

No changes for the second half, and again we started sort of brightly, but City had the lead and could let us run about like mad things while taking their time to pick openings.

There was a decent shout for handball as Gibson's sot seemed to be charged down by Toure's hands, but nothing came of the appeals, and twelve minutes in City picked their opening to set Sane away down the inside left channel, and he fired low across Pickford and in off the far post.

Game over, really. They could bring on de Bruyne, Nolito, and Delph (aye, well, never mind the last one) in place of Toure, who probably covered less than 100 yards in the game, Sterling, and somebody else, while Gibson went off hurt to be replaced by Rodwell - for some reason booed by the visiting fans.

Oviedo refused to give up the ghost, and put in a decent cross that Januzaj headed past the far post, and we had a few charges forward but always looked likely to get caught on the break. Despite Borini struggling to make anything work, it was Januzaj who made way for Khazri, who once more had ten minutes to save the word, and consequently tried to hard again. He did take a couple of good corners, the second of which was headed goalward by Kone and nodded in by an offside Defoe, but it was deemed (correctly) offside. No surprise there. There was time for a superb save, and a standard save, from Pickford, before three added minutes were announced and most of those remaining went home.

No points, no surprise, but some bright things. That's just me being optimistic and looking for the sunshine in the fog. Must-win games now become absolutely must-win, but things are looking bad.

Man of the Match? Jones. There you go, argue about that, but he got crosses in and had twice as many attempts on goal as anyone else.

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