WITH five or so minutes to go at Loftus Road, Rio Ferdinand pointed to QPR substitute Armand Traore and tapped his head.
There was an obvious implication of seeing the game through, rather than doing anything silly and giving Sunderland a sniff – a feat Harry Redknapp’s side actually did very well in the closing stages.
But it was that lack of nous, that lack of game-management which was to blame for Sunderland suffering a first defeat of the season.
Yes, there are other factors.
A failure to profit from an excellent spell in the opening 20 minutes didn’t help.
Neither did an on-edge Lee Cattermole after he was booked late in the first half. The bite clearly went out of the Teessider’s game.
And the experiment with a central Steven Fletcher and an out-wide Connor Wickham is yet to convince, albeit both had their moments at Loftus Road. It’s surely reaching the stage where it’s one or the other, with a more orthodox wideman on the left flank.
That attacking role has to be the area which consumes Gus Poyet and Lee Congerton’s attention over the next 48 hours.
But while a loss against a QPR side who had previously failed to register a solitary point will inevitably prompt calls for Sunderland to splash more cash, this was a game where they still could have come away with something if they had used their heads.
No, Sunderland didn’t do enough to win the game after a 20-ish minute spell which was as good as they had produced going forwards this season.
During that period, Adam Johnson terrorised the QPR defence as he drifted inside off the right, while Patrick van Aanholt’s pace going forwards was a constant worry.
But the crucial deficiency from the Black Cats was their failure to see the game through to the interval.
QPR were ranking up the pressure in the 10 minutes or so leading up to half-time, but Sunderland looked to be weathering the storm.
Any side in the Premier League is invariably going to have at least one spell in a game when they are on top. It’s question of surviving that period and going again.
But Sunderland didn’t.
They left Charlie Austin unmarked from Joey Barton’s stoppage time corner and they never really recovered.
Had Sunderland made it through to half-time, then the nerves would have crept in at Loftus Road after QPR’s previous this season.
But with that platform, QPR were able to set their foundations in the second half, hold on to what they had and persistently send Sunderland down blind alleys.
With a orthodox back four, rather than the brief experimentation with three centre-halves, QPR looked far more resolute.
Other than a Santiago Vergini shot early in the second half and an Emanuele Giaccherini deflected effort at the death, Sunderland rarely threatened, for all of the lion’s share of possession that they enjoyed.
Sunderland couldn’t recover from that set-back on the stroke of half-time.
It’s hardly misery time heading into the international break.
But defeat turns what could have been an excellent start to the season into an average one.
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