Club Focus – Sunderland – Black Cats ride their luck to safety

Steve Bruce can surely breath a sigh of relief as three more points for his Sunderland side at the weekend have surely ensured Premier League survival.

In what was a startlingly similar game to their previous encounter against Manchester City, the Black Cats fired out of the starting blocks, played some scintillating football and this time were rewarded with two goals for their efforts. The second in particular was a fine example of the excellent football Sunderland played throughout the first half. Steed Malbranque continued his good form, taking the ball down the left wing and cutting inside – surely his trademark move – to provide an astute pass straight to the feet of Darren Bent, who brought it inside the defender, onto his weaker foot, and fired it past Joe Hart. It was Bent’s eighteenth league goal of the campaign and a further reminder to Fabio Capello of his natural goal scoring ability. Two goals to the good at half-time, it seemed that for once, Sunderland’s support may be in for a relatively calm afternoon.

Any such thoughts were banished soon after the interval, as the Wearsiders came out transformed in all the wrong ways. They looked nervous in possession, energy levels dropped and they gave the ball away cheaply – repeatedly. The began to sit deeper and deeper and it was only a matter of time before Birmingham scored. If it was not for some goalkeeping heroics from the excellent Craig Gordon, yet another disappointing home draw would have been the likely outcome. He kept the Wearsiders in the game and when they brought on Lee Cattermole and Jordan Henderson, they seemed to bring with them a renewed burst of energy. It was Henderson’s dedicated work on the right wing that brought Sunderland’s third as he chased seemingly a lost cause, won the ball back and put in a fine cross that Frazier Campbell finished off.

Following the game Bruce praised his side’s first half performance but admitted the kind of tentativeness and nervousness the side exhibited in the second period must stop: “We were very good in the first half but in the second we showed complacency, took our foot off the gas and all those other clich

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