Sunderland 0 Hull City 2: Mark Douglas' match analysis

Sunderland suffered a damaging blow on Saturday, but Gus Poyet knows days like this need to be managed

Gareth Copley/Getty Images Nikica Jelavic of Hull City and John O'Shea of Sunderland
Nikica Jelavic of Hull City and John O'Shea of Sunderland

It was, it must be acknowledged, the only thing Steve Bruce got wrong all afternoon.

Perhaps emboldened by doing the double in a stadium he last departed with boos ringing in his ears, the Hull City manager was in the mood for mischief after securing a critical three points.

“Sunderland were flying (before Saturday) but in my experience with it there is always something around the corner,” Bruce said.

OK they win the derby 3-0, get to a cup final, what’s going to happen next? Is that typical Sunderland? Is that the history of Sunderland?” he asked before adding with a smile: “Can I say that?”

Sorry Steve, you might have laughed last on Saturday but you’re wrong.

The one saving grace from falling back to earth with an almighty bump is that since the turn of the year the kamikaze Cats routine has most definitely not been ‘typical Sunderland’.

 

Poyet wasn’t providing a direct riposte to his opposite number but his response was encouraging. “I am not looking for something that isn’t there,” he reasoned, when asked if this defeat was a worrying, fresh development in a logic-defying season.

We learned nothing new over 90 baffling minutes, other than Sunderland’s self-destructive streak might not disappear until Poyet gets cracking with his summer surgery. Until then he will have to manage it and that means not over-reacting to defeats which appear damaging but must not be allowed to knock his progress off track.

How could he lay into Phil Bardsley and Wes Brown – the architects of Sunderland’s demise here – when they have been so pivotal in the red- and-white renaissance?

Poyet added: “I am trying not to be negative. The game in November was incredible but we put it away, we have been better since then and then this happened.

“That’s football. I am not expected to win every game and I am not expecting to lose every game.

“We need to be good and cut out mistakes, if you give away things early on it will always be difficult to recover.

“Football is always tight at the bottom and one action can define the game and we gave that opportunity to Hull.”

Not that it takes the edge off the weekend disappointment, of course.

Handed an opportunity to hit the front of the relegation pack and put clear blue water between themselves and the rest of the Premier League piranhas, Sunderland made it to the third minute before their afternoon was wrecked.

Brown has been a huge part of their remarkable recovery but his third red card of the season completely changed the course of the game and proved a perfect metaphor for the stage of development Poyet’s Cats are in.

“I will not kill myself analysing the game,” was the Sunderland manager’s sensible judgement on a reverse no one, bar Bruce apparently, saw coming.

That was the only lesson we really learned on an unedifying afternoon: that the mistakes so hurting the Black Cats’ hopes of survival have been reduced, but not wiped out entirely.

It’s not a reason to prod the panic button, but it’s a menacing reminder of just how little room for manoeuvre Sunderland have been left with by their dreadful start.

On a wider note, you have to wonder about Brown’s judgement in wiping out Shane Long, who was hurtling towards Vito Mannone’s goal after Bardsley’s reckless and careless back pass teed him up perfectly.

He is a veteran of World Cups, Champions League games and title fights – but when Long skipped into the penalty area, Brown inexplicably chose to sacrifice himself rather than take a risk on Mannone, who has been playing to such a high standard recently. Brown has been so peerless when he’s been on the pitch it is easy to forget he has spent so long on the sidelines since Bruce signed him in the summer of 2011.

Maybe this misjudgement is indicative of the toll those injuries have had on him: would he have reached Long a year or two ago?

The evidence he needs to amend his game in the crucial moments is beginning to stack up and it says it all that he had managed to go 386 games with only one red card before this season. In the last 15 games, he’s been sent off three times (although one was the farce at Stoke).

One was Saturday’s mistimed tackle, the other a last-minute descent of the red mist. Neither would be expected from a campaigner like Brown.

Referee Mike Jones had little option but to send him off for an awful tackle on the Hull striker, and from that point the visitors stamped their authority on the game.

Mannone, again, was fantastic for Sunderland but there was only so long he could keep the Tigers at bay – although his save from Jake Livermore deserved more than to be followed up by the opening goal.

Long nodded that home and it prompted a flurry of chances for the impressive visitors.

Nikica Jelavic notched a second in the second half – another a fine header to end this as a contest and leave Sunderland facing the possibility of going into their big day at Wembley back in the bottom three.

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