Paul Whiteley: Sunderland are capable of pulling off a major Premier League shock

"Football is a game of two halves" is a phrase that definitely rang true when Sunderland entertained West Bromwich Albion.
Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe misses a header against West BromSunderland striker Jermain Defoe misses a header against West Brom
Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe misses a header against West Brom

My seven-year-old daughter, who was also watching the game, summed up the Black Cats initial performance: “What are they playing at?” as Sunderland lived up to their league table position with a lacklustre first-half performance.

Passing was poor, opportunities were missed and the team genuinely looked like a squad staring relegation in the face.

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A seemingly unhelpful referee also did little to help the cause.

Whatever Big Sam said in the dressing room at half-time definitely made an impression on the team during the second-half. Indeed, my brood and I were convinced that a new squad had been fielded as fortunes looked like they could be turned and a very vocal stand of Baggies away supporters made rather less noise.

Shots were fired in left, right and centre as Sunderland came alive and looked like the team they could be. Credit should be given to Ben Foster, who sustained attack after attack as Jermain Defoe and others came close on several occasions.

The crowd were up on their feet and there was a real air of ‘we can do this’ during the final 45 minutes. West Brom also sensed the renewed vigour of Sunderland as time-wasting became more and more evident as the match progressed.

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No doubt the prospect of hitting 40 points was something that Tony Pulis had discussed with his players.

The cruellest irony was that the shot that was eventually landed by Dame N’Doye during stoppage time (much of which was as a result of the time-wasting from West Brom) was ruled offside.

Ecstatic jubilation turned to disappointment as a second-half performance that rivalled any of Sunderland’s great matches was unfortunately not rewarded.

If however Sunderland are able to muster a similar (second-half) performance next Sunday against league leaders Leicester, I’d be minded to put a few quid on them pulling off something of a Premier League shock.

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