Club Focus – Sunderland – Black Cats let opportunity slip at Blackburn

After Chris Samba was sent off at the end of the first half of Sunderland’s game at Blackburn Rovers, it seemed to hand the away side the opportunity they needed to go on and get a much needed three points. However, Sam Allardyce’s men dug in, defended excellently, resulting in frustration for the North East side.

Steve Bruce again chose to keep the club’s record signing Asamoah Gyan on the bench, deploying his now favoured 4-5-1 formation with Darren Bent on his own up front. Ironically, the Black Cats seemed to fare better in the first half before they had a numerical advantage. They created two excellent chances that a noticeably unfit looking Bent uncharacteristically squandered. The second half was not one for the purists, as Sunderland’s attempts to prize open the Blackburn defence proved predictable and futile. Rovers performed well with ten men, and even managed to create a couple of chances themselves. In relentless rain, both sides struggled to string more than three passes at a time together and the 0-0 score line that resulted was all too predictable and ultimately satisfied nobody.

After the game, Bruce suggested that he was happy with his side’s fifth league draw in as many games: “I was very, very pleased with a lot of the game. I was delighted with the attitude, I couldn’t fault that. We are six unbeaten in the league now and we need to produce more of what we’re showing.” However, he also admitted his side is becoming over-reliant on the goal scoring attributes of Darren Bent: “we’ve created enough chances and opportunities, we could even argue we could have created more. That’s our Achilles heel. We can’t keep relying on Benty.” Gyan was introduced midway through the second half but failed to make an impact. Bruce will undoubtedly be searching for ways to integrate the Ghanaian striker into his starting formation.

The game was a stark contrast to the kind the Black Cats have been contesting of late. Sunderland have more than matched a number of sides who, on paper at least, are much stronger, using the ball well and playing some excellent football. Being the underdog seems to suit Bruce’s set up, particularly when playing at the Stadium of Light and his side continue to pull off good results out of excellent home performances. Where the team constantly seems to fall down is during those instances like the second half on Monday night, when the initiative was firmly in their hands, the expectation on them to go on and win the game. If the club are to finish above their lower mid-table berth last season, this is exactly the type of situation when they need to turn draws into wins. The club is at somewhat of a crossroads at the moment, and it is these instances that give the clearest insight into whether or not the club is still building on the considerable progress made under Bruce.

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