As I suggested in my preview piece I expected a torrid period in the game and it came right at the start. We started slowly but Sunderland was straight out of the blocks. Unfortunately Gallas was off the field for the opening goal changing his boots and Dawson was unable to take both men with Gyan turning well to score leaving Gomes no chance.
The difficult bit is why boots needed to be changed. The team has run out on the field in its warm up so I would expect decisions about the length of stud to have been made in the dressing room. My first impression of the goal was that the crosser had too much room and where was Charlie? He had been beaten trying to challenge the man further up the field while Pienaar stood by.
After that it was up to Spurs to put in a decent performance full of character to turn the game around and we were able to do it. Lennon and Palacios were on the bench so Pienaar and Sandro came into the side and as I had hoped Kranjcar got a start.
The words “away” and “Sandro” have not sat well together thus far but this was by far his best performance away from White Hart Lane and he ended up contributing well in our winner. Alongside him Jenas had another decent afternoon breaking up most of what Sunderland had to offer and turning defence into attack in a much improved second half performance.
In defence Dawson and Ekotto linked well and looked pretty secure for most of the time. As at Blackburn Benny did not commit himself to attack as much as at White Hart Lane and it paid off well. Dawson was able to get our equaliser with a decent header from a corner which Gallas enticed to go through Gordon’s legs by unsighting him as he ran across him at the important moment.
Up front Pav came into the side to partner Defoe and our final stat of 2 shots on target says much. That’s not to say that they were both awful as they both contributed towards moves in the opposition half but opportunities for them in the box were few and far between as the Sunderland centre backs played them well.
In the first half Defoe held the ball up well and laid a decent ball into the box which Jenas could not keep down and Pav played a challenging cross field pass which Corluka then got inside to Pienaar whose shot went over the bar.
Our second half performance was a great improvement on the first but it was clear that a moment of brilliance would be needed to win the game for us. That came when Corluka lifted a delightful ball into space down the right which Sandro ran onto it before putting in a cross that was headed away from Defoe straight onto the right foot of Kranjcar before it hit the back of the net.
Last week Niko climbed from the bench to hit a brilliant left foot winner. This week he starts and puts in the type of performance we saw from him last year before finishing it with another great goal. Pienaar played better but without Lennon the side lacked a little pace which did not assist our front men particularly Defoe. On the other hand having two central midfielders with a less adventurous outlook helps to close out the opposition and prevent us getting overrun.
That certainly helped us hold out our lead. Sunderland came back well in a late flourish which saw Gomes make a save from Steed and Gyan twisting and turning Dawson, Corluka and Gallas at different points.
Not wishing to be left out Gomes once again gets into the action ending up booked for time wasting after once again feigning injury in an effort to get Gyan booked? Why does he do it? On the replay the contact looked to be nothing at all and all he achieved was getting the crowd whipped up for the home team.
How does this affect the defenders around him? Dawson appeared to be saying “get on with it” to him after talking away the referee.
So another 3 points which puts us into the top 4 until Monday night when Chelsea has a chance to regain fourth spot. By that time the squad will be in Milan looking forward to a round of 16 game. Going in level at half time was an important feature and the improvement in the second half won us the points.
Quite who plays in Milan we have to wait and see but we will need to have two good halves in Italy and get our stud selection right before the kick off.