Didier Ndong: Is Sunderland record signing back on form?

Didier Ndong battles against young Liverpool sub Ben Woodburn. Picture by Frank Reid

Didier Ndong battles against young Liverpool sub Ben Woodburn. Picture by Frank Reid

17
Have your say

Didier Ndong might just be on the way back to form.

After a recent dip, the midfielder rediscovered his zest in Sunderland’s desperate fight against Liverpool, a fight which ended in a 2-0 defeat .

The club’s record signing covered almost every blade of grass inside the revamped Anfield

.

Granted, Ndong ended the game on a low when he tripped Sadio Mané in the box and James Milner converted the penalty in the first minute of stoppage time.

Ndong could point to the fact that the Liverpool forward should have been chopped down long before he reached the away area.

But in the previous 90 minutes, the 22-year-old was a shining light in a terrific Sunderland team effort.

That Ndong was the last man when Mané galloped into the box probably came as no surprise.

The club’s record signing covered almost every blade of grass at the revamped Anfield.

Whether he was inspired by playing at one of the game’s most famous stadiums or whether he felt it was time to step up to the mark – or both – it was a welcome sight to see the gold top glittering.

Ndong was vibrant in the middle of the park, using his energy to good effect, whether it was winning the ball in the tackle, timing his interceptions to perfection or covering his team-mates.

In short, it was the Ndong we had seen flashes of, but here it was a sustained display against gifted rivals.

While much of his work was completed on a defensive footing, hopefully he will get the opportunity to flourish going forward in the next few Saturdays.

Sunderland have a run of winnable games – some boast given the side are propping up the top flight.

Leicester (H), Swansea (A) and Watford (H) are the next three Saturday fixtures and Ndong will be a key figure.

The Gabon midfielder’s best impressions had come with Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff behind him, a luxury he has not had for some time.

Cattermole will not be seen until the spring at the earliest, but Kirchhoff’s return could be on the horizon.

The former Bayern Munich man has recovered from a hamstring injury and may need just a game or two under his belt before resuming.

Despite falling to the basement again following the defeat on Merseyside, Sunderland could not only climb off the bottom with a win over Leicester, they could even get out of the bottom three.

Having Kirchhoff using his astute brain and Ndong his boundless energy, it would give the Black Cats a stronger midfield unit.

It has to be added at this point that the rest of the midfield at Anfield more than did their bit.

Jason Denayer, having started as the man to mark home dangerman Philippe Coutinho, put in a tremendous shift, as did Steven Pienaar before tiring.

Duncan Watmore will have left L4 frustrated that he did not put Sunderland ahead with one of the chances of the afternoon, but that should not detract from a top effort. There were more positives than negatives, with Ndong at the top of the list.