Now this is all just getting really, really ridiculous. How is a person supposed to lead a happy, healthy lifestyle in tandem with enduring relentless torture every time Sunderland step on the pitch? Incredibly, we play the worst 75 minutes of football since our last trip to Wales, yet somehow score two away goals in one game for the first time this season to rescue a point – creeping ever closer to safety.
When I say we were bad, we were really, really bad. Particular culprits were Modibo Diakite, Andrea Dossena and Jozy Altidore. That’s not to exclude the other seven outfield players, who look petrified of the ball for most of the game.
As bad as we were, Cardiff were excellent. There was no evidence of the farcical affairs having any detrimental effect on their play. They dominated possession by dominating the wings. Our fullbacks could not get close to their fullbacks or wingers and, in Dossena’s case, were often nowhere to be seen. This has happened fairly recently, but in those games we had the excellent centre back pairing of Wes Brown and John O’Shea to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, the pairing of Diakite and Valentin Roberge, fresh from a clean sheet against Everton, couldn’t juggle their own pieces.
A better team would have had us slain well before half time, as it was we got away with just being one goal down. Jordan Mutch, who had been booked for a hideous dive minutes earlier, saw his effort take a wicked deflection to beat Vito Mannone. Despite the team being so poor, Fabio Borini shone once more and forced two good saves from David Marshall, Altidore also missed an absolute sitter. Not the worst thing he did all night – testament to just how poor he was.
Eyebrows were firmly raised after halftime as our only real attacking threat Borini was substituted for the usually half-arsed Steven Fletcher. It turns out that Borini was very ill, collapsed and was taken to hospital. Latest we have heard up to the point of writing this was that he had regained consciousness and his trip to the hospital was purely precautionary. I think I speak for us all wishing him well. It also turns out that Fletcher was fully-arsed!
However, before the good stuff, there was still plenty of time for Sunderland to flatter to deceive as our defence allowed former Black Cat Frazier Campbell to inevitably score and double the home side’s lead. Given our performance and our away goal scoring form, a comeback seemed impossible.
Cue some more substitutions which I shamefully belittled at the time, Craig Gardner and Jack Colback came on in replace of the ineffective Seb Larsson and poor Lee Cattermole. As it happened, these two changed the game.
Suddenly there was impetuous, composure and drive about Sunderland’s play. Cardiff’s defence began to sit deeper and deeper as their nerves began to hit the roof before the pressure paid off. Emanuele Giaccherini, largely poor throughout though creative, put in a delightful cross and we saw the best of Fletcher which we haven’t seen for some time. The Scottish international crafted a yard on his marker and lunged forward with an exquisite touch to beat Marshall. Then the kitchen sink was readied for launch.
That sink was in the form of Roberge, who had been clueless for most of the match, yet suddenly he was this enormous attacking threat. First, he fired a stinging volley to test Marshall before setting up the unlikely equaliser. In the 95th and final minute, after good work from Ki Sung-Yeung on the wing, Roberge’s deft touch set up Colback – his shot took a huge deflection and as football dropped another one of those mental moments that should never really happen.
It wasn’t the win we needed to escape, but it has drawn us within two points of safety going into January which features home games against Aston Villa, Southampton and Stoke as well as an away trip to Fulham. Not to mention that Capital One cup semi-final. We can lambast the overall performance all we want, but the fact remains – these players are up for this fight.
What They Said:
"We started poorly and at 2-0 it looked like it was too far but we don't stop fighting, going forward, took some risks and put Cardiff on the back foot and at the end we deserved the equaliser,"
"It's important how you approach the game and start the game and with the change of manager we knew they would be strong in the first 20 minutes and put us under pressure. Our warm-up wasn't the best and we tried to address that but it took us half an hour to realise how important it is not to give the opposition presents even if it is Christmas. I didn't, but the players felt ready to win it."