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Sunderland 1 Liverpool 0 - Prem (Mar 10 2012)

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Sunderland 1 LIVERPOOL 0

Report by Dave Usher

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Scorer(s) –

Half Time - 0-0

Venue - Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Date - Sat 10 Mar 2012

Star Man – Jay Spearing / Jose Enrique

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can't win when you play well, what chance do you have when you perform as woefully as this? Last week's defeat to Arsenal was hard to take, this was just hard to watch. It was dire, utterly demoralising stuff. It may be even worse than the shameful display at Bolton, as at least we created the occasional chance in that game. This was just soul destroying, we were wasteful in possession and clueless in the final third.

 

I don't remember their keeper even making a save in the 90 minutes. We deserved to get beat although Sunderland didn't deserve to win, if that makes sense? They were almost as bad as us and not even a draw would have been a fair result as for me both teams deserved to lose. It wasn't a game for the neutrals that's for sure.

 

One of the supposed benefits of not being in Europe is that you can play a settled team as you're only playing once a week and players don't need to be rested as much. It hasn't worked out like that though has it? We're no nearer to knowing our best side now than we were back in August. Our team is anything but settled and there appears to be no pattern to team selection from week to week. Players are selected when they are playing badly (Carroll, Henderson, Adam, Downing etc), and often find themselves left out after a good game (Bellamy, Downing, Carroll). A few weeks ago I thought we were onto something and were ready to make a run at 4th. It hasn't happened, we've had no consistency in selection and we've gotten ourselves into a position where we now have to be more concerned about Everton, Sunderland, West Brom and Norwich than we are about reeling in those above us.

 

In 2012 we've won once, drawn twice and lost five in the league. Appalling stuff. Of those defeats, only the Arsenal one was undeserved. Good results in the cups have meant that the league form has kind of slipped under the radar a bit. I have to admit it wasn't until today I realised our league results in 2012 had been so bad. I've generally stayed positive through our numerous setbacks this season because for me the results don't tell the whole the story. If you judge it solely on the league table and results, things look as grim as they've been in a long time. The eye test paints a different picture though, more often than not we've played good football and there's not been too much wrong that better finishing wouldn't fix. It's easy to not get too down hearted at results when the team is playing well, you just have to hope that eventually you get the breaks and start to get the results you deserve. After a performance like this however, it's much, much more difficult.

 

To keep things in perspective though, every team has days like this, even the top sides. Look at Spurs for example, the wheels have come off them in a big way recently, yet a few weeks ago they were being talked up as serious challengers for the title. They've lost three on the bounce and are now trying to hold off Arsenal for 3rd place. The same Arsenal who let in eight goals at Old Trafford and who have had numerous abysmal results themselves this season. As I say, every team has days like we had at Sunderland and in fairness we've not had many of these kind of shocking performances. We've had far less this season than we've had in the last few years in fact, but we've also had less wins, especially at home. That's why when you have a day like this it seems like the sky is falling in.

 

The Sunderland performance was wretched, completely unacceptable, but it seems much worse because of all the points we've dropped in games we should have won. A week ago we produced arguably our best league performance of the season even though we lost. We've had plenty of disappointing results, but the terrible performances have been pretty rare. Hopefully that remains the case as we can't afford a repeat of what happened at the Stadium of Light. A couple of wins and good performances in the next week and the hope will return and we can still salvage plenty from the season. That's what has to happen, we simply cannot follow up that Sunderland display with anything other than three points in the derby and progression to the FA Cup semi final.

 

Players need to play better, but Kenny has to sort it out as well as he's not covered himself in glory recently. His selection policy has been baffling at times, none more so than in this game. Gerrard was fit and desperate to play, but he was held back for the derby. Carragher has been out of the side due to the form of Agger and Skrtel, he comes back for one game and then finds himself back on the sidelines as Coates is brought in out of nowhere. Why? Did Kenny just think this was a game where he could afford to give Coates a run out, or was Carragher dropped? If Coates keeps his place for the derby, then clearly Carra has been dropped. I doubt that's the case though and my money is on him starting against Everton.

 

It's the same with Downing. He's had his struggles this season but had recently picked things up and seemed to be growing in confidence. Like Carragher and Gerrard, I'd say Downing is nailed on to start the derby and would have done regardless of what happened at Sunderland. It looks to me like maybe Kenny prioritised the Everton game over the Sunderland one. That's disappointing as it suggests we've given up on trying to finish as high up the table as possible. Even if that's not the case, we don't have a settled side do we? We still have Henderson playing on the right, which continues to baffle and infuriate in equal measures. Occasionally he'll do alright there, like last week against Arsenal. More often than not he offers very little.

 

Bellamy, Carroll, Kuyt and Downing never know if they're starting from one week to the next. In fairness, only Bellamy has performed well enough to have any right to be aggrieved at being left out, but I do have some sympathy for Carroll and to a lesser extent Downing that when they do play well they often find themselves left on the bench for the next game. A few weeks ago Carroll was finally putting in some encouraging performances and looked like he might be finally turning the corner. He's been left out of the last three league games. How is he ever going to get into any kind of run of form?

 

I just don't get it, I can understand not picking him when he was crap, but surely the minute he starts to show something you'd want to try and let him build on that? He has a quiet game against Cardiff and straight away he's back on the bench. He'll come in for a game or two, may even score, and he'll be back on the bench again. He cost us £35m for God's sake, you have to give him every chance to succeed and we simply aren't doing that. Play him every game and let's see if he's worth keeping around, if he isn't then sell him. But at least give him a proper run to see if he can hack it.

 

The team selection didn't give us the best chance of winning this game and neither did the use of substitutes. It's always Bellamy that comes off isn't it? Granted, he'd been quiet in the second half, but he still had more right being on the field than Kuyt or Henderson. On that subject, the under-use of Maxi Rodriguez this season is as mystifying as the over-use of Henderson.

 

We were offering nothing at all in the final third, it was pitiful stuff. The only time we threatened was when Suarez took matters into his own hands and decided to try and beat three defenders himself. He almost did a couple of times, but in the end his levels dropped to that of those around him and in the second half he was as disappointing as the rest.

 

I'm struggling to actually write about the game itself, as fuck all happened. I watched it online and it was so bad I kept hoping the stream would die and put me out of my misery. I'm told Match of the Day managed to get three minutes highlights out of it. What did they do, put the goal on a three minute loop? Skrtel's foul on Bendtner was just about the only other 'highlight' worth seeing. Even the goal was shite. Campbell was allowed too much time to turn and his shot hit the post, bounced of Reina's head, hit the post again and fell perfectly for Bendtner who was following it up. A goal fitting to settle such a wretched game.

 

The moment it went in I knew it was game over. It had that feel about it, there was just no way we were coming back as we didn't have it in us, it couldn't have been more apparent. Kenny eventually sent on Gerrard and Carroll for Adam and Bellamy. Adam could have no complaints, he had an absolute nightmare and could barely complete a pass, especially in the second half where you could see his team-mates frustration with him growing with every bad decision he made. His set-pieces were garbage too. I thought Bellamy should have been left on as he's more likely to get a goal than anybody else we have. Instead, he made way whilst Jordan 'one goal' Henderson stayed on. Bizarre.

 

We never threatened a comeback and the keeper didn't have to even make a save of any kind. Suarez scuffed a volley wide after working an opening with Henderson, and Kuyt didn't connect with a header after a great pull back from Gerrard. That was as close as we came, it was truly pathetic. Henderson was belatedly hooked in favour of Downing, but it made little difference.

 

It appears we've now put all our eggs in the FA Cup basket. That's all well and good if we win it, if that happens I doubt many will care if we finish 5th or 7th. Anything below that is seriously unacceptable but is a very distinct possibility now. I had hoped that winning the league cup would relieve any pressure on the squad and allow them to just go shit or bust for a top four spot knowing that failure to secure it isn't the end of the world.

 

Hasn't worked out like that though. We're looking like Spurs from a few years back when they couldn't win a game after they lifted the League Cup. Birmingham did it last year too. We need to get our shit together fast, we're one defeat away from slipping below Everton in the table. That would be the same Everton who've spent virtually fuck all in two years whilst we've spunked over £100m on players. It's embarrassing to see us in this situation and defeat in the derby doesn't even bear thinking about.

 

Star man is a toss up between Spearing and Enrique, neither of whom were outstanding but at least performed to an acceptable standard. I can't decide who should get it so they can share it.

 

 

Team: Reina; Kelly, Skrtel, Coates, Enrique; Henderson (Downing), Spearing, Adam (Gerrard), Bellamy (Carroll); Kuyt, Suarez:

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Yup. I suffered the game live and you have summed it up very well. Baffling that Carroll was been knocked back just as he finds form. Baffling that we sacrifice points (we were only ever going for the draw surely?). Baffling that we are allowing our status to slip and slip and becoming seen as a relatively easy touch. If you think the latter is not true then talk to supporters of other clubs, Sunderland fans were not surprised that they won or how bad we were.

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Wow! Didn't notice either that our league form in 2012 was THAT bad. I didn't even notice that this (Sunderland game) was our 3rd straight league defeat until I read in a match report somewhere. The cup runs did tainted the reality. Sort it out, Kenny!

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Shit game, good report. One comment:

 

Imo it makes no sense to play Carra ahead of Coates anymore. CL qualification is gone, we need to throw Coates in at the deep end to see if he sinks or swims.

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