Sunderland 2 Southampton 1: Mark Douglas' match analysis

Gus Poyet's gamble of having Phil Bardsley in his squad paid off last night as the defender scored the opening goal in their match against Southampton

Richard Sellers/Getty Images John O'Shea (L) and Wes Brown celebrate Phil Bardsley's goal against Southampton
John O'Shea (L) and Wes Brown celebrate Phil Bardsley's goal against Southampton

Forget the revolution, this was all about restitution.

Having spent the summer dreaming of a fresh beginning with a new model red and white army, Sunderland are entering the winter with a measure of hope thanks to a few old faithfuls.

Phil Bardsley started the ball rolling against a listless Southampton before Seb Larsson finished the job to land the Black Cats a first League Cup quarter-final date since the turn of the Millennium.

It is no mean feat for Gus Poyet, who has now overseen back-to-back home victories over teams Sunderland have rarely beaten on their own turf.

While he will happily grasp the Cup success, it all adds to the momentum he is trying to build at a club still searching for belief in their battle at the bottom.

There was also a measure of vindication for the Uruguyan as the player he brought back from the brink of the exit injected the impetus which they needed to see off their stubborn but subdued visitors.

Bardsley was virtually ex-communicated by Paolo Di Canio for being pictured on the floor of a casino after Sunderland’s Premier League survival was confirmed back in May.

He furthered invoked the ire of Sunderland fans for ill-judged social media comments - but slowly he is rebuilding his reputation and Poyet’s gamble on the casino kid paid off in style last night.

In Bardsley’s case, he has now moved from last chance to last eight in one of the most remarkable red and white resurgences of this or any season.

His scrappy opener - stabbed past Saints’ ex-Sunderland stopper Kelvin Davis after an unseemly scramble – summed up a match where quality was at a premium.

Yet few on Wearside will give that much thought as they contemplate the prospect of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in a home quarter-final in late December.

It is a nice pre-Christmas present for Poyet and his players while they tackle the more serious survival assignment mapped out for them in the coming months.

They deserved it too, although the manner of the victory was a mite scrappy.

A first half low on entertainment was usurped by a second period full of goalmouth entertainment but little of the composure Poyet will be craving for in the coming months.

It was just a shame it was witnessed by just 15,966 – the lowest crowd to take in a Black Cats game since August 2010 and the visit of Colchester. To be fair, after 45 minutes of insipid action you had to sympathise with the floating fan’s preference for a warm front room over the chilly terraces. Indeed, you would have to search far and wide for a first half of such limited action.

Just about the only thing stirring in the opening exchanges was the home support among the meagre crowd as Sunderland attempted to play more of the possession football Poyet intends to bring to the Stadium of Light.

There has been a definite shift towards short passing with an emphasis on holding on to the ball on the new manager’s watch, but the results were pretty mixed during a tepid first period.

It is an intriguing transition tbeing made under Poyet but the jury is, most definitely, still to return a verdict on whether it will reap immediate rewards.

For every smart, intricately-worked move they fashioned there was a wasteful moment which potentially put the back four in jeopardy.

Having acknowledged that, there were times when Sunderland looked more comfortable on the ball than a disjointed Southampton side, who unsurprisingly struggled to find a rhythm after boss Mauricio Pochettino decided to make ten changes from the team which has made such a bright start to the Premier League season. There were bright moments when Ondrej Celustka and Adam Johnson were able to work the channels, but both were let down by Sunderland’s forward players showing a surfeit of intent when the ball was worked into the penalty area.

At other times the crowd’s patience wore thin as possession was surrendered somewhat needlessly.

Yet this is Poyet’s way, and the Black Cats will need to stick with it if they are to reap the long-term benefits of a system which intends to marry endeavour with enterprise.

The visitors are already playing to a successful template and, in spite of the sheer number of changes their Argentinian boss had made, their touch-tight passing was a joy to watch at times. This is a team which dominated Sunderland in August and there were signs of similar intent in the way Gaston Ramirez patrolled the final third for the visitors.

The Uruguay international can barely get a kick for the Saints in the Premier League but he added a dash of quality and was presented with their first clear-cut chance.

Jack Cork cleverly some space on the edge of the box but when he squared for Ramirez, the forward swiped his effort and sent it flying over the crossbar.

The second half was much, much better from both sides and Sunderland made early head-way when Jack Colback was felled by Jack Cork. Adam Johnson’s wonderfully-flighted free-kick was planted onto Wes Brown’s head with enough precision to allow him to pick out Jozy Altidore.

His header was blocked by Davis but Bardsley was able to prod home from close range.

Southampton were awoken from their slumber and Sunderland, whose defence was marshalled expertly by John O’Shea and Wes Brown, had to hang on. The visitors had a decent penalty shout denied when Calum Chambers tangled with Colback but it was Sunderland who struck when Southampton were pressing.

Again, Altidore was the provider as he teed up substitute Seb Larsson to roll into the far corner of Davis.

It felt like enough - but the Saints rallied and Maya Yoshida nabbed a last-minute goal which hinted at a possible grandstand finish.

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