Sunderland players need to use their brains plus five other things learned from late Crystal Palace defeat

Christian Benteke heads in Palace's winner.Picture by FRANK REID
Christian Benteke heads in Palace's winner.Picture by FRANK REID
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Sunderland conceded three second-half goals for the second successive home game to the drop to the bottom of the Premier League.

Unlike the previous defeat, 3-0 to Everton, the Black Cats contrived to lose 3-2, having been two goals to the good via the feet of Jermain Defoe.

What is there to learn from Saturday’s giveaway at the Stadium of Light.

Game management: Who would you get to mark Christian Benteke at a crucial late set-piece? One of your two giant central defenders? Makes sense, doesn’t it.

Alas, not to Sunderland, who had Jan Kirchhoff picking up the powerful striker. While Kirchhoff is not exactly a candidate for a role in the Seven Dwarfs (he is 6ft 5in), surely the Black Cats would have been better putting Lamine Kone or Papy Djilobodji on him rather than the tiring German.

Kirchhoff got nowhere near him as Benteke headed in from six yards.

Putting your best headers of the ball against the rival dangerman should be pre-planned, but if not, the defensive giants – and the Cats have a couple – should take command of the situation.

Earlier in the second half, Javier Manquillo was marking Benteke in his own area.

Use your brain:

It is vital players are sharp in mind as well as deed. You can moan about Connor Wickham for his inability to stay on his two feet, given he twice fell to the floor as though Sunderland had taken a sharp axe to his legs.

The Crystal Palace sub fell first too easily from a Kirchhoff ‘challenge’ to buy a free-kick from Anthony Taylor. That came to nought, but in injury time, Manquillo needlessly ran into the ex-Cat near the corner flag and he duly hit the canvas as though felled by Glenn Foot.

Mr Taylor awarded a free-kick and Benteke headed in Chung-Yong Lee’s free-kick.

Players should be aware, not just of Mr Taylor’s readiness to make an award for the slightest of contacts, but an opponent’s penchant for falling down. Wickham at the time was going no-where and look what it led to.

Take the sting out of the game:

What is the old cliche of being at your most susceptible after scoring a goal? It happened to Sunderland who, seconds after going 2-0 up with a fine team goal , conceded an, albeit flukey, goal to Joe Ledley.

His deflected strike past Jordan Pickford gave Crystal Palace a foothold back in the game with half an hour still to go.

In those circumstances, the Cats needed 10 minutes of control to kill off the contest.

Trust your skills:

Sunderland may not have played Crystal Palace off the park but there were moments of promise, probably forgotten in the frustration of defeat.

But there was a point when Sunderland led 2-1 and they had Crystal Palace on the ropes that after a succession of good passes, the Cats tried to ‘force’ a ball, only to anxiously put it out of play on the left for an away throw-in.

Had the home side trusted their skills and kept possession, the chance was the opening would come, just as it did for Defoe’s second goal after Duncan Watmore got his cross in.

Get an arm around Adnan Januzaj:

This lad has talent but also, perhaps, has been blighted by a nonchalance to his game.

Some detractors have labelled the 21-year-old “lazy” during his time at Man United, but we’ll use “nonchalance”.

Most artists need a box of Terry’s All Gold instead of a boot up the backside.

In the first half, the Belgian left the left-back clutching at thin air, but could not get his cross off the floor and in the second, a turn by the touchline was equally impressive only to run the ball out for a goal-kick.

Some of Januzaj’s best times at Old Trafford were under Moyes who will hopefully remind Adnan how good he is but that his skill needs an end-product.

If they get the best out of him, he could prove a match-winner in the coming weeks.

Take a point:

You want to take maximum spoils, especially at home, but sometimes it is better to accept something than come away with nothing.

At 2-2 entering stoppage time, Sunderland could have taken the ‘Desmond’ and moved forward to the West Brom game with a point rather than empty-handed and with more pressure on them.

A point represents a step forward and these points could add up as the season goes on.