Sunderland’s Titus Bramble urges team to tighten up

Titus Bramble wants Sunderland to rediscover their defensive mean streak.

Titus Bramble wants Sunderland to rediscover their defensive mean streak.

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TITUS Bramble today challenged Sunderland to rediscover their defensive mean streak in time to face Stoke’s aerial bombardment.

Tuesday night’s 4-2 defeat to Chelsea was the first time Sunderland had conceded four goals at the Stadium of Light since Roy Keane’s final match in charge in November, 2008.

The Black Cats have prided themselves on their record at the back this season with no one registering more clean sheets in the Premier League than Steve Bruce’s side.

But stand-in skipper Bramble admits Sunderland’s defending was not up to scratch against an impressive Chelsea and they can’t afford to be as culpable at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday lunchtime as they try to harness Stoke’s physical threat.

Bramble told the Echo: “We conceded some sloppy goals on Tuesday which is not like us and that is disappointing although it was against a very good Chelsea side.

“If they play like that on any given day, then they’re going to beat most teams.

“They’ve got world class players and they had a great day and turned on the style. Even had we been even better, it would still have been a difficult game.

“But we’ve got to take the positives into Saturday which will be a different game because we know what Stoke are like.

“There’s a great support there at Stoke and it will be a tough game.

“We’re confident going into every game though so we’ll take Saturday and move on from there.”

Bramble felt the turning point against Carlo Ancelotti’s men was Sunderland’s failure to hold onto Phil Bardsley’s early lead for longer than 11 minutes.

Ahmed Elmohamady’s needlessly conceded penalty handed Chelsea the initiative to score twice within an eight-minute spell.

Although Kieran Richardson’s equaliser put Sunderland level at the break, they couldn’t stem the waves of second half pressure from Chelsea, sparked by the impressive Nicolas Anelka.

“It was a great strike from Bardo which gave us a great start,” said Bramble, whose central defensive partner Anton Ferdinand received treatment for a groin injury yesterday.

“We conceded a penalty which let them back in it and if we could have shut up shop for another 10 minutes or so, we could have gone on from there.

“It was disappointing to concede so soon after we had scored but we had no complaints.

“Had it been at the other end, we would have been screaming penalty. Ahmed has to be a bit smarter there.

“We did well to come back into the game but we came out for the second half and they went up another gear.

“Craig (Gordon) made some great saves and they hit the woodwork. On another night, they could have got a few more. Anelka is unplayable because he’s got such a great football brain.

“When he’s in the hole, he’s really hard to pick up and there aren’t many better. Having signed someone like (Fernando) Torres, they knew everyone had to be on their game to fight for their places.”