Chris Young’s Sunderland-Liverpool verdict: No home comfort for Cats

Emre Can goes down under Liam Bridcutt's challenge, with the Sunderland midfielder sent off for a second bookable offence
Emre Can goes down under Liam Bridcutt's challenge, with the Sunderland midfielder sent off for a second bookable offence
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STATISTICS can be manipulated for various motives, yet there is a irrefutable, damning one dogging Sunderland.

It’s almost mid-January and Sunderland have won just once at home in the Premier League.

The bulk of the 45,000-plus crowd at the Stadium of Light who came to see the visit of Liverpool, have seen Sunderland gain three points just once in the flesh this season.

Now, in fairness, Sunderland’s fixture list over the first half of the season has not been kind on their own patch. They did well to come away with draws against the likes of Manchester United, Spurs and Chelsea.

But if Sunderland are to avoid another nail-biter this season, then they have to find a solution to their home sickness.

Against Liverpool, they had no idea whatsoever of how to solve it.

The opening 45 minutes was painful; on a par with the second half against Hull and the shambles at Southampton as the most pathetic performance Sunderland have served up this season.

It was flat, pedestrian, careless and bereft of any attacking blueprint.

If Liverpool had been three or four up at the interval, Sunderland could have had no complaints.

Gus Poyet didn’t help with the way Sunderland were set up either.

Sunderland were so concerned with thwarting Liverpool’s wing-backs that Emanuele Giaccherini and Adam Johnson - the only player in red and white who emerged with any credit - operated as supplementary defenders.

At times during that first half, Sunderland were playing with six at the back.

There were several notable absentees for Poyet, but picking Santiago Vergini ahead of Billy Jones was a strange one too, given the Argentine had clearly been struggling with fatigue and injury over the festive period.

There was no attacking impetus or spark, and with Liverpool dominant, Sunderland simply went sideways and backwards.

Bizarrely, there was an improvement in the minutes immediately following Liam Bridcutt’s daft dismissal for a second yellow card, albeit there was minimal contact with Emre Can.

It was almost as if Johnson and Giaccherini couldn’t stick to Liverpool’s wing-backs anymore and had to take a chance.

Johnson’s strike which crashed against the underside of the bar was a vicious one and desperately close to drawing Sunderland level.

But that was Sunderland’s only meaningful effort.

Substitute Danny Graham produced far more in his late cameo than the man he replaced, Connor Wickham, had shown.

Yet the sight of Sunderland finishing the game with Graham and Mikael Mandron up top was a brutal sign; a reminder of how the Black Cats clearly still need extra attacking strength before the end of the month.

Regardless of who comes in or who doesn’t though, it is the home form where Sunderland need a vast improvement if they are to avoid being in the thick of the relegation dogfight again.