GUS POYET described Sunderland’s woeful first-half performance against Liverpool as “confused”.
The opening 45 minutes of Saturday’s 1-0 loss were arguably as bad as Sunderland have produced all season – on a par with the second half of Boxing Day’s loss to Hull City and October’s 8-0 shambles at Southampton.
Sunderland sat far too deep, with Adam Johnson and Emanuele Giaccherini virtually confined to their own half in attempting to contain the Liverpool wing-backs.
And it wasn’t until after the second-half sending-off of Liam Bridcutt that Sunderland were able to produce a meaningful effort on goal, when Johnson smashed a long-range shot against the crossbar.
“We were confused in the first half, badly confused,” admitted head coach Poyet.
“I think you need to be flexible.
“You cannot take things literally because, on the pitch, things happen.
“I don’t know what is going to happen on the pitch.
“I don’t know whether they are going to play with a square in the middle, or four across the pitch.
“You need to adapt.
“The disappointing side is we sorted it out at half-time.
“But, at this moment of time, I was expecting my team to sort it out on the pitch.
“That made me feel not great.”
Sunderland performed better with 10 men than 11, and Poyet had no issue with Bridcutt’s dismissal, although he felt that Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho could also have been sent off for two yellow cards.
Coutinho was booked in the first half for failing to withdraw 10 yards from a free-kick and did the same after the break, yet without the same repercussions.
“They are fouls,” said Poyet on Bridcutt’s dismissal.
“He stopped an attack so, by the rules, they could be yellows. I’m honest.
“But, by the rules, Coutinho should have two yellows.
“You cannot pick and choose – you either referee by the rules or by common sense, and I think the referee picked when he was going to referee by the rules and when by common sense, and that is not acceptable.”