Switch craft: Sunderland boss Advocaat insists tactical change saved day at Stoke

Jack Rodwell tracks Stoke midfielder Steven N'Zonzi on Saturday
Jack Rodwell tracks Stoke midfielder Steven N'Zonzi on Saturday
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DICK ADVOCAAT says he needed to make a half-time change to Sunderland’s system to come away with anything from Stoke.

Despite Connor Wickham giving Sunderland a dream start after just a minute at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, the Black Cats found themselves on the back foot for large portions of the first half against the Potters.

Tactically-wise, we changed it because too many players had too much space for them

Dick Advocaat

Head coach Advocaat had reverted to an orthodox 4-4-2 at kick-off, but Sunderland found themselves overran in the middle of the park, with Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam controlling proceedings.

But Advocaat sacrificed winger Will Buckley for Danny Graham at half-time and switched to a 4-3-3 formation, which prompted a much-improved second-half performance from Sunderland, who looked a far more proficient outfit.

“Tactically-wise, we changed it because too many players had too much space for them,” said Advocaat.

“We changed it to 4-3-3 and, from that moment on, it looked much better, because we started to play.

“The first half was too difficult to the majority of the players.

“That second half was much better, football-wise.

“That’s the reason I made the change, not because Buckley played poor.

“Our midfield was better organised, and then you get your chances.

“But we still had to work very hard to get that result.”

While Sunderland spurned several second-half chances to come away with maximum points, Advocaat was heartened to see his side creating opportunities after scoring just three times in the previous eight games.

“The good thing is that we tried to play football in the second half and had opportunities to score goals,” said the Dutchman.

“That was the most important thing.

“We only scored one, but we could have scored two or three goals.

“We didn’t score, but creating is very important, in my opinion.

“We had good opportunities to score, but that’s what we have to improve.”

Despite Sunderland’s improved second-half display, they were still indebted to two superb late saves from Costel Pantilimon to come away with a share of the spoils.

Centre-halves John O’Shea and Sebastian Coates also needed to make several telling blocks, with the latter taking his opportunity in only his fourth Premier League start for Sunderland.

Advocaat added: “The two centre-halves were very strong, in my opinion.

“They showed they can do it.”