COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY
Another three points toward safety or a top four finish. February may well decide which.
On a windy dank north Liverpool night the Blues set out to eradicate Saturdays cup exit from their minds and restore some of the Arsenal and City mentality that had seen them rightly lauded. From the kick-off we were initially a little jumpy but once Fellaini got his foot on the ball and started picking the simple pass others joined in and were soon looking the far likelier to make something of the game.
joined-up footy broke out and Sunderland looked a disjointed outfit. Just 7mins in Fellaini put Baines in down the left and took a return pass from him, he looked up, put in a diagonal ball across the box and the picked out the unmarked Cahill who rose and merely helped the ball on its way into the corner of the net.
Cahill continued to show remarkable energy and seemed to be everywhere, tackling and winning balls, bullying the opposition and gaining and giving away free kicks. This was rubbing off on others and the Blues were in control to the extent that Sunderland’s answer was to shirt pull and kick anything above grass height, none more than the returning Cattermole whose idea of competitiveness was akin to low level thuggery.
The Blues continued with the joined-up stuff and just before the 20min mark another good move saw Baines put in a good diagonal cross that Cahill, leaping salmon like, headed down into the path of Donovan, he controlled the ball first time and went across the six yard box, steadied himself and slotted expertly into the bottom corner leaving the keeper bemused.
I started to think about another 7-1 and such was our dominance for the rest of the half it just might have been on. Osman had a curler saved and a Baines free-kick was saved low down by the keeper. Sunderland swopped Richardson for Jones on 30mins and as he was coming on our new man Senderos was out for a run on the touchline and got a great reception, I wondered if Jones thought it was for him. The visitors offered nothing in the half until right on the death when a good cross from Zenden was missed by Jones.
H/T and it had been a big improvement on Saturday’s effort.
The second half never really got going as Sunderland by necessity had to up their endeavour and we were in no mood to give much away, all this led to some scrappy play with less joined-up stuff and more percentage play. Cahill and Fellaini were doing their best to help in the cohesion department and on the hour mark Cahill released Donovan through the heart of the visitors defence with a peach of a pass and the American took the ball around the keeper and fired into what he thought was an empty net only to see fullback McCartney make a great goal-line clearance.
Only minutes later Pienaar put Saha clear on goal only for him to delay his shot and allow Mensah to make a timely tackle and divert the ball for an unproductive corner. These two instances excepted the fare was quite turgid and the site of a discarded paper bag just blowing aimlessly about the pitch seemed in keeping with the play.
The introduction of Arteta for Donovan on 75mins woke us all up a bit along with Jones hitting one horribly wide and the crowd chanting ’Rafa Rafa sign him up’ and then for the travelling fans to take up the chant. Vaughan came on for Saha minutes later but cut a lonely figure up front as the Blues went into playing deeper and deeper mode to see the game out, a move that gave Sunderland their best two chances of the night and but for two super saves from Howard, first from a Zenden shot that he turned away and then he tipped a strong shot over.
At the whistle a routine 2-0 win but that last fifteen minutes of to deep defending could have spoiled all the other good work.
Overall I thought the team responded well from the cup defeat and the introduction of Big Vic for a one minute run out along with more game time for Arteta we are starting to look stronger and more competition can only be good all round. Arteta’s confidence was boosted when he took a hard tackle near the end and seemed to have no ill effects.
My M.O.tM was Fellaini very closely followed by Cahill and in truth all the players put in good performances in patches.
Wigan next and three points there will see us go into the difficult month of February with a full squad bar Jags for the manager to pick from and who knows?. I just hope we can find a better way of seeing out matches than our present drop deeper and deeper tactic.
On a side note Heitinga is reminding me of Gravesen a bit in that he is mostly excellent yet prone to the unexpected lapse that borders on the comical.
UP THE BLUES
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1 Posted 29/01/2010 at 03:37
On the subject of parking the bus: to be fair, I really don’t think DM or the team for that matter, want to resort to those tactics. I imagine he’d love Saha to put away a few of his chances and others to follow suit. Moyes said himself in the post-match interview that 2-0 is a dangerous scoreline, especially how it played out in the last 15.
I mean even with all the Huntelaar talk, he mentioned how we have trouble in the final third. If Saha doesn’t have the legs for it, and the only other person to play up top is half a foot shorter, less experienced and not naturally a CF, what outcome would you predict that doesn’t mirror what happened on Wed?
I feel like at the moment it’s a non-issue, do we really suspect our players enjoy running around franticly protecting a lead while they could be burning the back of the net? That doesn’t make sense to me.
2 Posted 29/01/2010 at 05:09:47
Also I’m with you, Ryan Scails, what you say makes a lot of sense, though some will disagree, I think you are spot on.
3 Posted 29/01/2010 at 13:03:57
Similarly, Saha ?
4 Posted 29/01/2010 at 13:58:57
Ajay — Don’t read anything into that; it was just one of those games, both were in and out and put themselves about for periods and then went quiet for awhile.
5 Posted 29/01/2010 at 16:35:48
6 Posted 29/01/2010 at 16:16:50
Fellaini’s lofted pass/cross (?) to Tim was a joy, and Baines marauding down the left had much to do with the early dominance. And he can’t do that without Heitinga (and whoever is going to play at the back with him) providing the base.
We’ve got some very good players out there!
7 Posted 29/01/2010 at 18:37:31
There are definitely similarities though, similar characters and both possess excellent long range passing ability. But I would say Heitinga’s a bit calmer and disiplined.
Other than that, good right up Ken. I agree on Saha and Pienaar aswell, it was just an off day, nothing to do with attitude or wanting out.
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