Sunderland 1 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Albion's level of possession rose to even greater heights at Sunderland, where they managed 44% along with seven shots on target - but despite going ahead through a well placed first half strike by Nacer Chadli, they had to settle for a point.
Recovered from viruses, Brendan Galloway returned to the starting lineup and Saido Berahino, amidst talk of new contract offers, returned to the bench.
Sunderland's equaliser came through a slight miskick by Patrick van Anholt, which hit the ground and looped over Ben Foster with eight minutes of normal time remaining. They ended the day in ninth place with nine points from seven games, a rate that will see them survive with relative comfort.
Albion fail to benefit from stray Black Cat crossing their path
In a game that Albion probably shouldn't have needed to get out of first gear to win, their inability to shift up a gear and finish it off having gone ahead saw them come away with just a point from a second game in a row against a bottom of the table side, in this case a side that as well as not having gained a single point at home this season had also lost three first choice players to injury from their capitulation in front of their own fans the previous week.
With Galloway not in the squad for a second game in a row, Albion put out an unchanged starting line-up, whilst for their hosts, Sick Vic was unavailable to prove a point against the club who had previously tried to get him fit enough to feature more than a few times for them.
Pulis's play for a point plans might have been as rent asunder as his defence was in the third minute, after Fletcher had squandered possession in trying to pass to Rondon upfield, allowing Sunderland to move the ball sharply on the deck and in through our backline of beanstalk giants to Defoe, who found himself all on his Jack near the penalty spot, though with Foster quickly narrowing the angle, the little person's shot wide of the post didn't amount to a hill of beans, nor bulge the bag. (In case you're wondering, yes I tried to work the cow from the fairytale into that, but just couldn't!)
Eleven minutes in and Phillips pulled a ball back for Chaldi but he was unable to get his shot past the keeper, after which the game seemed to drift for a twenty minute period in which Sunderland's long balls into Defore caused as much consternation for the Albion defence as our balls up to Rondon caused for theirs (not much), however around the 35-minute mark, Evans won another uncontested long ball and when it fell into space halfway inside our half, Jacob extricated it under challenge from two opponents before winning a much stronger challenge against a third, which given he was already in the ref's notebook by then he might have been excused for being less forceful with, thereby allowing Phiilips to run away through the inside left channel and set up Chadli, running outside him and, after the latter's fine first touch with his right foot had taken him clear of the defence, his left-footed shot across the keeper nestled into the far side's inside side netting.
An almost identical situation arose just shy of the half time whistle but with McClean, in the Chadli role, unable to get as far ahead of the defence, his more under pressure effort ended up as neither a shot close enough to threaten the goal, nor a cross pulled back far enough for Rondon, arriving at the back post to tap in, to give us a 2-0 lead at the break.
The third minute of the second half would echo the first half as Defoe had another chance, but with Sunderland persisting with the hope of him out- battling our huge back four, Albion were having enough of the ball to see Fletcher force a save from the keeper around the hour mark whilst, ten minutes later, Defoe's bearing down on goal yet again, only to have Evans read the situation and get a block in, was enough to see McClean's attacking wide play replaced with Gardner's more defensive interpretation of the same part, as Pulis presumably decided that sitting back even further and hanging on to the three points was a better bet than trying to push on and secure them, although another Chaldi/Rondon breakout after we'd sucked Sunderland into yet another blind alley, might have actually done that.
Five minutes later though and Albion conceded a goal that was an almost carbon copy of the goal conceded in last week's game against the bottom of the table side, when yet another aimless punt into the wide right area saw it returned, on the deck, into our box, and although van Aanholt could only toe-poke the flicked cross into the ground, he toe-poked it hard enough to see it loop over Foster into the net. No doubt some will claim that this was a little unlucky, but we really shouldn't have let this Sunderland side within ten yards of our box, let alone allowed them into it so often, and so I'd claim we only have ourselves to blame as a result of being so happy to retreat after being so happy to just give the ball away and anyway, in the last game the luck was on our side when Dawson was on hand to head that toe-poke out from under the bar.
The end of normal time, coming after a very open period of the game in which Sunderland clearly thought they had us rattled enough to push for their first home win of the season, whilst we still look likely to hit them on the break, saw Morrison given the full five minutes of stoppage time in which to continue his rehabilitation, whilst Robson-Kanu was given a half of it, which meant both were on the field to see Evans booked for blatantly obstructing a player going nowhere, and then to defend Defoe's last kick of the game free-kick opportunity, admittedly from some 25-yards out, which resulted from the foul, though thankfully Morrison and Robson-Kanu would watch as Defoe shot wide of the post.
An away point yes, but Sunderland were bottom with just one point after six games for a reason, whilst the fact that they allowed a side that's not exactly renowned for its curation of the ball a whopping 44% of the possession, let alone being out-shot 17-7 (2 on target to our 7), surely suggests that they'll be one of sides that make sure that Puli's "never relegated" legacy continues, despite having had the luck to come up against one of his clubs on the day they needed a draw to avoid the worst start ever to a EPL season by any side.
Kev Buckley's entertaining effort covers it so well that I'll just add a couple of things.
With the players they had out, this Sunderland side is the worst team I have ever seen in the Premier League and it wont surprise me at all if they beat the low points tally record. Take Defoe out and I'm pretty sure they would.
This was obvious after about 15 minutes - their fullbacks were absolutely terrible and at times, to total amazement, their midfield stood off Fletcher and Yacob. If ever a game was crying out for Morrison as a replacement for either of these two, this was it.
But instead of taking advantage of this, we learned what we already knew - that at this level even when you are playing a poor side if you keep giving them the ball cheaply and allowing them attacking practice in a training session, they will evetually score. It was very similar to the goals conceded against Stoke and Bournemouth.
Gardner's introduction for MacClean was the the cause of the inevitable when the options were:
Sorry, I just don't see it and we know from history having two wrong footed players on our left hand side makes our ability to retain the ball even worse.
There is nothing to mark the subs on really.
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