IT was a case of “after the Lord Mayor’s show” for Queens Park Rangers – their stirring, last-gasp victory over Liverpool followed by a damp squib of a performance at the Stadium of Light, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
Mark Hughes had hoped his side would gain momentum from their midweek conquering of the Reds and would have wanted at least a point from Saturday’s trip to the North East.
After his side’s 3-1 defeat, the QPR boss, though, was quick to acknowledge how difficult it can be to come to the Stadium of Light.
But, with games against Arsenal and Manchester United next up and Spurs and Manchester City lurking around the corner, he wanted to take something from the game.
That his team did not, was no-one’s fault but their own, he insisted afterwards.
“We started off a little apprehensively and never really picked it up from there, if I’m honest,” he sighed.
“We conceded a poor goal from our point of view, defensively. We failed to compete in the box in the way we would normally expect when a cross comes in and all in all it was a poor performance.
“You can put forward the case that we expended a lot of energy, emotionally and physically on Wednesday with the win over Liverpool, but I expected a lot more from us against Sunderland.
“Our decision-making wasn’t great at key moments in the game. We caused problems for ourselves, rather than the opposition.”
Hughes accepted that Djibril Cisse’s sending off early in the second half made the visitors’ job that much harder, but he was reluctant to blame defeat on the 54th-minute dismissal.
“The sending off was important,” he agreed. “It was a crazy challenge by Djibril and obviously he knows that. It compromised us.
“But, in all fairness, even if we’d kept 11 men on the pitch I don’t think we would have won it because we didn’t start the game in the right manner either.
“We failed to do the right thing on enough occasions and if you do that at Premier League level then you get punished – certainly when you come to places like Sunderland.
“You need to be on the front foot to stop things at source and we never did that to any great effect.
“You can’t allow teams time and space to dictate to you and that’s what we allowed Sunderland to do.
“We were too passive, we made it too easy and I don’t think Sunderland needed to really hit the heights they’re capable of in order to beat us.”
Now Hughes turns his attention to the future without Cisse’s services for the next four games.
“That’s going to hurt us because, when we have kept him on the pitch, he’s been excellent,” said the experienced Welshman.
“We can’t dwell on it too much, though. It’s spilt milk from our point of view and I’ve got to focus on the personnel that’s available to me.
“One thing’s for sure, we will need to be much better than we were against Sunderland if we are to get the results we want.”