Saturday, 13th January 2001
How a team as dull and unadventurous as the Wearsiders can be challenging for a Champions League place is a sad reflection on our game.
The first shock of the day was the inclusion of Trevor Sinclair, reports suggested that he would be a non starter, with surgery a real possibility. The loyal Lomas returned from his own injury as did Di Canio. The up to press disappointing Camara dropped down to the bench, whilst injury meant that Michael Carrick missed the chance to impress Eriksson and his native North Easterners.
The Black Cats slyly set their stall out early, with a dogged approach designed to stop the home side playing. Except for a Hutchison header cleared from the line by Winterburn they barely left their own half for the opening 20 minutes. West Ham left the stalls at a high tempo with a spell of sustained pressure on Sorenson's goal. A Kanoute snapshot, A Di Canio chance and a weak shot from Cole that ended a fine move all came in the early stages. Sunderland also were having trouble playing into the low sun which also gave those of us in the Bobby Lower difficulty.
The crowd were also having bother with the officials. Mr Messias was taking charge of only his third Premiership fixture, and it showed. The Thirsk teacher still has plenty to learn. He failed to let the game flow at all, pulling play up for minor incidents yet missing many more robust challenges. His late flagging assistants didn't endear themselves to the Boleyn crowd either. At one stage a strong police presence was dispersed around the Chicken Run as things threatened to boil over following another mystifying decision.
The Mackems took the lead on 22 minutes totally against the run of play. Ex-Hammer Hutchison's free kick found the head of the Slovakian giant of a stopper Varga.
You got the feeling that we'd been sucked into the Black Cats trap and breaking them down from then on did indeed prove to be a hard task.
If Mr Eriksson had no 'Ikea' what all the fuss about Joe Cole was he was about to get a few tasters of his array of talents. He ghosted past challenges on several occasions and was more of a threat than the subdued Di Canio.
The second half proved to be a major disappointment, you hoped class would tell in the end but it didn't. We lost our shape as perhaps the not fully fit stars began to fade a little. When we did go close to levelling luck was just not on our side. A brilliant scissors through ball from Cole set Paolo up for a fierce drive that beat Sorenson but not the post on his near side.
It wasn't to be our day. Further proof of that came on 68 minutes when yet another unnecessary blow up by the ref saw a free kick awarded to Sunderland some 25 yards out central of goal. Substitute keeper Craig Forrest was still lining up his wall when Bud Hutchison curled it in, before anyone was ready.
There was no whistle at the time and having replayed the video the clueless official can be seen still marking the distance of the wall as the free kick was struck. He looked confused but still decided to award the goal as Paolo set off after him towards the half way line.
2-0 game over, the only other shock was that no-one was dismissed as tempers started to rise amid many niggly incidents. Mr Messias had virtually set the tone by booking Lomas for his first challenge in the opening minutes after ignoring a couple of earlier Sunderland fouls. You could say that he lost his Tord Grip on the game from then on!
Credit to Sunderland for the way they battled and hunted in packs. Peter Reid at least admitted that they didn't play much football and sadly we
didn't do enough or get the breaks to score.
Harry meanwhile must be hoping he gets some good news on the the transfer front this week. We'll soon know if Amoruso and dilly dally Dailly are to use up more of the Rio reddies. I personally think we should hold out for better than these two 'prone to errors ' defenders. The physical presence of Amo and the very versatile Dailly would have been welcome against the tough Makems though that's for sure.
Hislop 6 - Didn't have too much to do, except deal with a few high balls into the box. Failed to emerge after the break due to his knee swelling up.
Song 6 - Another fully committed display, lept Phillips very quiet as well as helping out with the lofty Quinn problem.Got forward a few times and became involved with Phillips in some niggles towards the end.
Tihenen 6 - Steady display, he certainly looked calm enough again and won enough challenges.
Pearce S 6 - Fiercely determined as ever he nearly lost it once or twice as boots, elbows etc were flying about all over the show. Contributed in attack with some wicked free kicks and corners.
Sinclair 6 - Surprise inclusion, still hampered by injury it seemed, thus unable to fully impress the new man. Didn't get much change out of Michael Gray (who?) or the supporting Swede Schwartz.
Lomas 6 - No apparent second thoughts about feeling unwanted. Failed to really get control of the midfield area.
Lampard 5 - Hugely subdued, Sven Goran will wonder why he is considered a contender on this display.
COLE 8 - Looked up to the challenge to impress from the off. Some lovely quick leaving defenders for dead dribbles and full range of passes. Final ball often a let down and he faded but still did enough to impress the new England man.
Winterburn 7 - Never gave up but uninvolved for long spells and unable to help going forward much.
Di Canio 6 - Not fully fit. No real sustained spells of trickery from the Magician in this stop/start match.
Kanoute 7 - Strove to shake of the close attentions of the giant big haired Varga. Frustrated by the constant offsides. The instant close control and turns still treat to watch though.
Forrest 6 - Surprise second half start for Shaka's able deputy. One double save from Quinn saw him prove his worth. Not really at fault for the killer second goal, little else to do.
Camara 5 - Late introduction as Tihenen was sacrificed. Gamble failed to pay off as Titi wasted yet another chance to impress. Couple of wild shots and runs down blind alleys and that was that.
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