Sunderland Club Focus – Good omens for Steve Bruce’s renovation program

Steve Bruce’s policy of slowly inducting new signings, thereby keeping the previous members of the squad feeling secure, got a thumps up on Saturday evening at the Anfield where the team collected a valuable point with new boy Sebastian Larsson scoring a sensational debut goal.

The manager started only two of his new signings with Jack Colback and Anton Ferdinand rewarded with stating places for solid performances at the end of last campaign. Bruce said: “We finished 10th last season, so lads like Colback, who did well for me, if I had kicked him in the teeth today we might not have seen him again.”

Larsson started at the left side of the midfield while Ahmed Elmohamady kept his spot on the right from last season. The team was outplayed in the first half by an industrious looking Liverpool attack and was lucky to escape with only a goal down, but the spirited come-back in the second half will certainly make the manager happy. Larsson had a positive influence on the whole game and added icing to that when he connected with an Elmohamady cross with a perfect volley past Pepe Reina. Meanwhile, Stephane Sessgnon showed lot of quality with the ball at Anfield while Wes Brown had a solid debut with Lee Cattermole collecting his costumery booking.

Kenny Dalglish commented the Black Cats’ performance by saying: “For Sunderland’s effort and commitment, a draw was about right,” while Bruce added: “We got away with it a little bit in the first 20 minutes, we gave the ball away badly. But we got over that period and the longer the game went on the more belief we had. We posed a bit of a threat and kept the ball better second half. I think that was key, we had to keep the ball better.” The game was marred with controversy when Kieran Richardson escaped with a yellow card for a foul on Luis Suarez which allowed the Uruguayan to take a spot-kick and blast it over the bar. “On another day it could have been a red card,” Bruce admitted while mentioning Phil Dowd’s decision.

Ji Dong-Won and David Vaughan came on as substitutes for the away side which meant fans must have to wait to see the £8m teenager from Ipswich Town, Connor Wickham in action. Bruce is well aware that 18-year-old Wickham needs time to settle in and the former Manchester United captain is already showing enough maturity to wait for the right time so that the new recruits can ease in smoothly.

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