STEVE BRUCE praised Nicklas Bendtner for a solid Sunderland debut and said he saw signs on Saturday of a Black Cats team coming together, writes GRAEME ANDERSON.
Following the 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea, in which Ji Dong-won scored his first Sunderland goal, the Black Cats manager said: “Nicklas did OK considering he’d played two games in a week beforehand.
“I think that caught up with him, but he stuck at it and you can see he’s going to be an important player for us.
“He offers us something different and it’s tough that he has to be judged against a team as good as Chelsea, who will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season.
“We lost the game to a top team, but I’ve seen bits from us which were encouraging. Ji, for example, will be happier now that he has a goal.
“So we can’t panic, we have to batten down the hatches and we must arrest the decline in our home form, but we’ll get an opportunity to do that next week when we have to look to bounce back at the Stadium of Light against Stoke.
“I’m disappointed about the start we’ve made to the season and I can understand people’s tensions.
“I have to accept the flak because we haven’t won at home, but I’m convinced we’ll turn it around and be fine.”
Bruce bemoaned poor defending for Sunderland’s third defeat in five games this season, bad defending and the sheer quality of their opponents.
“They’re one of the best teams around,” he reflected.
“In Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech, they have a wonderful nucleus and they have a bright, young manager who has been able to make some very good signings.
“I think the big, wide open spaces we’ve got at the Stadium of Light suited them and they made it very difficult for us.
“They had terrific possession and we had to use a lot of energy getting the ball back.
“I was disappointed we weren’t better in possession ourselves, but more disappointed with our defending for their goals.
“The first one was an awful one to give away against Chelsea and, on top of that, we weren’t able to make the most of the occasional opportunity which came our way – if Nicklas had stuck one away early it might have been different.
“Against teams like Chelsea, you do have to take your chances if you’re to get anything from them.”