Where has this Sunderland team come from?
Forgive this reporter kicking off the story with a question, but the Black Cats have gone from zeroes to heroes in a very short space of time.
From being (almost) everyone’s favourites to be relegated, they have now made everyone stand up and take notice, especially after the 2-1 win over Leicester.
David Moyes’s side are still in the drop zone, but the football produced against the Foxes was amazing for a team who began the day bottom. Here are six things we learned from the exciting 2-1 victory.
What a number one:
Is there a better keeper in the Premier League? English or otherwise.
Bar beating out a Marc Albrighton shot, a bit of sweeping and a catch or two (and a rare spill), Jordan Pickford, for once, had nothing to do.
But when he did, what a save. Leicester were directing everything, including the kitchen sink, in the dying seconds.
Sunderland seemed to have cleared the danger, but, when the ball came back in, Wes Morgan’s shot was kept out superbly by Pickford.
He has proven his incredible skill and mentality when rushed off his feet but can also do it at the drop of a hat, so to speak.
Moyes gets defence right:
The boss has played a blinder or two of late and he did it again on Saturday.
John O’Shea had done nothing wrong at Anfield, where he deputised for Papy Djilobodji, who was serving a one-match ban.
Djilobodji was restored – it was a big call but the correct one. Papy was excellent, as was partner Lamine Kone, who carried on from where he left off at Liverpool.
Defensively, they were spot on and their distribution was faultless.
Victor Anichebe at it again:
There appears to be no let-up to the incredible form of Big Vic and long may it continue.
Anichebe did not score, though he almost got his fourth goal of the season, only to see his early shot deflected wide. But his general play was again outstanding, holding up the ball, bringing team-mates into play and being a right handful to the Foxes defence on the left of the front three..
He was the instigator of Jermain Defoe’s match-clincher and was a key man in the final 15 minutes or so of normal/added time when the Blacks Cats were protecting a one-goal lead.
Cats must translate pressure into goals:
The Sunderland team of the first half of the opening 45 minutes were unrecognisable from the one which has played this season.
There was pressure, positivity and a great tempo, with wave after wave of attacks .
The Black Cats did not just outplay the champions, they battered them.
But – there’s always a but, isn’t there – when all this pressure and all these chances present themselves, they must turn it into goals.
Sunderland show bottle:
For those in the near 40,000-crowd at the Stadium of Light, did your mind go back to the Crystal Palace match after Leicester pulled it back to 2-1?
Inevitable really after that great giveaway against Alan Pardew’s Eagles.
But not on this occasion. Yes, it needed another Pickford wonder save in the last few seconds and Morgan blazing the follow-up into row W, but Sunderland showed determination and nerve in equal measures in what felt a never-ending last 16 minutes, including stoppages.
Have referees stopped awarding penalties:
Far be it from me to query the eyesight or question the parentage of the men in black, but have referees at the Stadium of Light lost the ability to point their right hand towards the spot?
For the second home game in a row, the Black Cats have been refused the proverbial stonewall penalty.
Against Hull, away keeper David Marshall cleaned out Duncan Watmore with no foul awarded and, on Saturday, Danny Simpson slid in and tripped Patrick van Aanholt and what does referee Andre Marriner give? Nothing, nichts, zilch.
Neither decision has cost Sunderland unduly – possibly only a better goal difference – but it is argued that luck evens out over the season and Moyes is due some good fortune.