02/05/2015: Sunderland 2-1 Saints
Saints went down to another disappointing away defeat at Sunderland. Ronald Koeman's side made a reasonable start to the game, but looked toothless going forward after James Ward-Prowse's dismissal.
Sunderland looked nervy at the back early on, with Saints looking to take advantage by pressing and moving the ball forward quickly. Ryan Bertrand shot wide following a good run. A few minutes later Victor Wanyama fired over the bar after the ball had fallen to him on the edge of the area.
Saints showed more flair in attack for much of the first half, but Sunderland soon regrouped and started to create chances with some functional offensive play. Danny Graham cleared the bar on 15. The Black Cats were then handed a chance to open the scoring from the spot. Jose Fonte was penalised for a high boot on Graham. Jordi Gomez took a slow run-up before planting the ball into the corner of the net. Saints were level almost instantly. Sadio Mane hooked into an unguarded net after Costel Pantilimon had spilled the ball in a collision with his own player.
The rest of the first half was fairly scrappy, with Saints looking slightly more effective in the attacking third. A good team move on 27 resulted in Graziano Pelle heading over from Bertrand's cross. Nathaniel Clyne then tried his luck from distance, but Pantilimon had it well covered. At the other end Connor Wickham side-footed just over. Shane Long found himself in acres of space on 43, but his poor pull-back went straight to Pantilimon. Sunderland came close from a goal-mouth scramble just before half-time.
Saints made a very poor start to the 2nd half. The team looked sloppy on the ball. Filip Djuricic replaced the ineffective Shane Long at half-time, but it made little difference. The Serbian's 51st minute sliced effort summed up Saints' second-half.
Two minutes later Sunderland were awarded another spot-kick. James Ward-Prowse was harshly sent off after tangling with Jermaine Defoe in the area. It probably wasn't a penalty, although you could make a slight case for it. A red card was certainly too harsh. Gomez once again waited for Davis to dive before sending him the wrong way.
The atmosphere in the ground was cranked up a notch and Saints looked rattled. The team were unable to maintain their shape for a period. Sunderland initially enjoyed better control of possession with the extra man. Dick Advocaat's side were content to play keep-ball. Saints saw more of the ball later on, but showed little quality in the final third. It felt as if a goal was never going to come, but it nearly did in stoppage time as Saints went more direct. Toby Alderweireld forced Pantilimon into a fine save from close range.
Another fruitless away trip and another flat performance. Saints looked ok at times early on, but our lack of attacking alternatives were exposed once again in the second half. Koeman's side managed to keep the ball fairly well for a side down to ten, but they never really made much use of that possession. Saints have had something to play for all season, but it hasn't really felt like that too often in recent months. The season is petering out and 7th place looks more and more likely. Saints will likely be relying on Arsenal to win the FA Cup to claim that final Europa League spot.
K Davis: 6. Didn't have many saves to make
Clyne: 6. A few good runs forward, but often wasteful on the ball
Fonte: 6. Gave away the first penalty, a decision which could have gone either way. Did ok otherwise
Yoshida: 6. Didn't cover himself in glory in the build-up to both penalties, but did well in other areas. Generally read the game well
Bertrand: 6. Very good in the first-half at both ends of the pitch. Some decent crossing. Slacked off a bit in the second
Alderweireld: 7. Decent on the ball. Showed his skill without really offering much going forward
Wanyama: 7. Made some good bursting runs through the middle
Ward-Prowse: 5. Passing a level below his high standards. Not involved enough before his red card
Long: 5. Some good pressing, but poor on the ball
Mane: 7. Made things happen. Skilful and tenacious
Pelle: 6. Some decent movement early on. Used his body to good effect at times. Saw less of the ball in the 2nd half with Saints down to ten
Djuricic: 5. Good technique, but poor decision making
S Davis: 6. Helped Saints get to grips with the ball slightly better, but didn't offer much offensively
Elia: 5. Made little impact
Sunderland - Jordi Gomez (21, 55)
Saints - Mane (22)
Attendance - 39,613
Referee - Mike Jones
Sunderland: Pantilimon, Jones, Coates, O'Shea (Vergini 31), van Aanholt, Cattermole, Larsson (Rodwell 82), Jordi Gomez, Defore (Johnson 82), Graham, Wickham
Subs not used: Mannone, Bridcutt, Reveillere, Buckley
Saints: K Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Alderweireld, Wanyama (S Davis 66), Ward-Prowse, Long (Djuricic 46), Mane (Elia 70), Pelle
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Gardos, Targett, Reed