This ladies and gentlemen is what it is like to witness a good away performance over ninety minutes without the red cards and other nonsense. I’m not beaming with pride nor racked with disgruntlement. I don’t feel it’s necessarily to lavish a great deal of praise but neither do I sense that impending doom is upon us. Despite how big a point it is and how admirable a performance it was, it all feels a bit…meh…really.
As far as 0-0s go this was quite intriguing, unless you happened to be one of the Villa faithful in Villa Park – who seemed to get more and more frustrated as the game went on. I guess they have pretty good cause for concern, given that they created very little and found themselves often out played by the team which were rock bottom. I say were, because we’re not anymore – wahoo!
The game had a relatively repetitive pattern throughout, where we would look assured, competent and purposeful throughout with sporadical ten minute spells being camped in our own half. I was quite surprised to read after the game we did not in fact have the lion share of possession and that particular pendulum swung slightly in the home side’s favour – it never really felt that way. Gabby Agbonlahor was a constant threat throughout, whilst John O’Shea managed to make Christian Benteke look a pretty uninfluential talisman.
All the big moments in the game fell to a Sunderland player however we lacked the ruthlessness to make this a huge three points, which is pretty gut-wrenching really. Emanuele Giaccherini, who was impressive throughout as an attacking threat, may find it a little difficult to sleep tonight after an incredible miss. The best way I could describe just how tremendously poor the miss was, it was almost a replica of Nwankwo Kanu’s miss against Middlesbrough whilst playing for Portsmouth in 2005. I’ll remember it in a similar vein anyway.
Otherwise, the next best golden chance fell to Fabio Borini, who was industrious if not noticeable. Giaccy was provider this time and did so with a wonderful cross which Borini headered with some gusto off the crossbar. Unlucky.
It would not be a complete Sunderland away day if I wasn’t to have a bit of a moan at the ref. Actually, moan is a bit harsh, I thought overall Neil Swarbrick was fair and correct throughout. However, we could easily have had a penalty as Ciaran Clark handled in the box, but it was one of them that are difficult to really spot in real time.
I can’t complain, I can’t be overly complimentary either – but what a wonderfully welcome away point at last! Hopefully we can make the illusive three points on our travels next time…
Vito Mannone – 8
It’s really pleasing just how much confidence this guy seems to exude. He has certainly warranted his number 1 spot and doesn’t seem to be looking to relinquish it anytime soon. There were no worldies required in this game mind, but a couple of smart stops and claiming every cross he came from effortlessly he must score high.
Phil Bardsley – 7
It was a competent defensive display by the back four and Bardo was solid throughout. Looks a little more likely to contribute further up the field than Ondrej Celustka and seems to be relishing life under Gus Poyet.
John O’Shea – 8
I thought both centre backs were brilliant. They were never troubled for most of the game and between them committed zero fouls. O’Shea looks a completely different player when partnered with Wes Brown and my foot is waving dangerously close to my mouth because of it.
Wes Brown – 8 (MAN OF THE MATCH)
It was between the centre backs for man of the match. I’ve plumped for Brown yet again because he was the busier of the two. He covered Andrea Dossena well when Agbonlahor got his skates on and was his usual, epically composed self. We will stay up if he stays fit.
Andrea Dossena – 6
Well, I can’t say I was particularly pleased to see him on the team sheet but overall he was competent. Fitness levels are not there but he scores less than the other defenders because Agbonlahor got the better of him on a few occasions.
Ki Sung-Yeung – 6
As you would expect, the top passer in the team with the top pass completion rate. Not quite as influential as he has been, but still brings a calming and neat presence to the midfield.
Craig Gardner – 4
Gards was really poor. Not quite as poor as he was in the same fixture last season but undoubtedly he was the weak link today. Generally wasteful and contributed very little.
Sebastian Larsson – 6
Pretty much the same Seb we see every week. He’s there, he’s everywhere, but doesn’t really do anything while he is there. A whisker away from a goal with a free kick mind.
Fabio Borini – 6
He didn’t really influence the game a great deal but still probably did more than Adam Johnson has done for most of the season. Unlucky with his header too.
Emanuele Giaccherini – 7
A constant threat going forward, if he is willing to stay I think this lad will be excellent in a few more months. That miss though. Dear me.
Steven Fletcher – 5
I felt a bit sorry for Fletch today but he wasn’t great. In a game where we were a little better than normal with the whole chance creation he had no shots on goal, didn’t ever seem to be in the right place or make the right runs. Offside too often and a little clumsy.
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