Purring Cats halted by resilient Spurs.
Despite being in the best vein of form they have been in for all season, The Lads could not overcome Tottenham. However, the North Londoners were fourth in the table at the beginning of the early kick off and had put four past a struggling Villa side on Boxing Day.
Again one enforced change had to be made from the team that beat the Champions on Boxing Day. The in form Danny Rose couldn’t play as he is on loan from Spurs so John O’Shea came in at centre back, pushing Kilgallon out wide, who had the tricky job of keeping Aaron Lennon under wraps.
The warning signs were there for Sunderland early on when Gareth Bale expertly beat Gardner with one touch and sped away from the right back. His cross went to Adebayor on the edge of the box but the striker couldn’t finish and his tame effort was an easy catch for Mignolet.
Sunderland, though, responded with a chance of their own. Gardner saw his 30 yard free kick deflected into the path of ‘keeper Hugo Lloris, who had an easy catch to make. Spurs again came back at Sunderland. After a scramble for the ball in the box, despite being injured Cuellar decided to battle on, Sandro got a powerful shot away at Mignolet but the Belgian grasped the ball again.
Breaking from a Spurs corner, McClean carried the ball for Sunderland but was soon dispossessed and Lennon put through Emmanuel Adebayor. He beat the offside trap but couldn’t beat the SAFC goalkeeper as Mignolet came out quickly to close the angle and saved Spur’s shot.
Tottenham continued to build up their mid first half pressure. This time, they hit the bar. Jermaine Defoe curled the ball towards the back post but it looked like Cuellar would get there. However, the Spaniard miss kicked the ball leaving Adebayor with almost an open goal. The Togo striker may have felt that luck may not be on his side as he hit the bar from a yard out.
Although Spurs had been the better side, Sunderland broke the deadlock on 40 minutes. McClean was fouled by Walker 30 yards out so it was Larsson to deliver the free kick. Fletcher saw his shot blocked by Lloris but John O’Shea was there for the rebound and the Irish defender scored his first goal for the Black Cats.
However, only three minutes into the second half, Spurs had equalized. Walker’s corner was headed into his own net by Cuellar. The ball hit the back of the Spaniard’s head and flew past the stranded Mignolet and into the back of the goal. Three minutes after this, Spurs delivered the knock out blow when they struck again. It looked like Kilgallon had cleared the ball but he played it straight back to Lennon who, on the edge of the box, left O’Shea for dead and curled the ball around Mignolet from the penalty spot.
Sunderland did try and get back into the game when Johnson had a shot saved by the French international but it was at the other end where the drama would happen next. Bale’s blistering pace got him in a crossing position and delivered the ball to Defoe at the back post. He looked certain to score as Mignolet stumbled. However, the Belgian somehow managed to block the shot and get the ball away, starting chants of his name from the Sunderland faithful.
Two changes were as the Lads tried to get back in the game. Frazier Campbell came on for Matt Kilgallon and Connor Wickham came on for Seb Larsson. Another change was made when O’Shea pulled up with a hamstring injury so Titus Bramble came on in place of him.
These three changes didn’t create any more chances for Sunderland as the final chance of the game fell to Spurs.
Sub Clint Dempsey’s back heeled pass proved to be a brilliant through ball to Adebayor. However, luck was not with him as Mignolet saved his shot again. The striker missed four chances to score.
This defeat leaves Sunderland in the same place, 13th. However, a win at Liverpool on Wednesday night could see the Black Cats jump up a couple of places.
Simon Mignolet, Craig Gardner, Matt Kilgallon, John O’Shea, Carlos Cuellar, Seb Larsson, Jack Colback, Adam Johnson, James McClean, Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher.