ANOTHER cup tie, another win, and it’s almost becoming routine for Sunderland in knock-out games.
Southampton had a second go at beating Sunderland but the outcome was just the same in the FA Cup as it was in the Capital One Cup earlier in the season, as the home team went through at the Stadium of Light and the Saints were eliminated.
Over the 90 minutes, Sunderland were the better team and deserved their place in the quarter-final but Southampton had the best chance of the game when Ricky Lambert somehow missed from three yards when it looked easier to score.
Gus Poyet must have had his heart in his mouth then, as before the game he made it clear there was no way he wanted a replay.
And the Southampton striker’s miss made that long journey to the south coast unnecessary.
Both clubs made changes for the game but whereas Sunderland are in the thick of a relegation battle with a fixture backlog and the small matter of a cup final to worry about, Southampton had no such issues or distractions.
So why Mauricio Pochettino didn’t feel his strongest team is a mystery and the question that I’m sure Southampton fans would like an answer to.
In both cup games, Southampton haven’t looked anywhere near as good as they did in the Premier League game at the Stadium of Light in January and they’ve paid the price for leaving key players on the bench.
The game itself was hardly a classic but Craig Gardner’s goal lit up the 90 minutes and was worthy of winning any game.
Lee Cattermole showed he isn’t going to give up his place to Liam Bridcutt easily, protecting the back four with a typically battling performance and was my man of the match.
Sunderland’s three new Argentinian signings did what was expected of them and Ignacio Scocco in particular will benefit from his 70 minutes action and he can kick on from there.
Overall, the day went perfectly for Gus Poyet, as with Sunderland having had such a busy schedule over the last couple of months, changes had to be made.
And players who needed match fitness got valuable game time.
The head coach juggled his resources and came up with a winning formula to once again win a cup tie and take his team through to the next round.