Why Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe was limited to a sub role against Watford

Jermain Defoe shoots wide
Jermain Defoe shoots wide
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Jermain Defoe’s recent recovery from a hamstring injury was behind the England international’s substitute role against Watford, Sam Allardyce has indicated.

Defoe was limited to a 20-minute run-out against the Hornets on Saturday after returning to the Sunderland squad, yet immediately injected a greater threat to the huff and puff of the Black Cats attack after being introduced to the fray.

He had a hamstring strain, the conditions were there and the team played brilliantly at Arsenal

Sam Allardyce

The 33-year-old was denied by a brilliant save from Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes, before he saw a cute flick to Patrick van Aanholt’s cross loop agonisingly wide of the far post.

But, despite Defoe’s contribution from the bench, Sunderland boss Allardyce didn’t regret his decision to leave the ex-Spurs frontman out of his starting XI.

Allardyce said: “He had a hamstring strain, the conditions were there and the team played brilliantly at Arsenal.

“He’s had three chances to score – one was offside and he didn’t quite get the other two in. The shot was brilliantly saved and the volley cross from van Aanholt, he got enough on it, thinking it would ordinarily go in the corner.”

The spurned chances from Defoe, Adam Johnson and Fabio Borini cost Sunderland the chance to improve their position in the survival scrap after the hosts couldn’t recover from falling behind inside the opening four minutes.

Allardyce added: “The expectation was high on Saturday from the fans.

“They’d seen us win back-to-back games, beat our own rivals and felt that we were going to get another victory.

“Every game we play, we have to be 100 per cent to win it. I didn’t think – certainly in the first half – that there was any player on the pitch that was 100 per cent or anywhere near what I’d seen in previous matches.

“That’s why I changed it so quickly and that got better in the second half.

“If you’re going to get out of trouble, you recover from going 1-0 down and get something out of the game.

“That’s what we haven’t done.”