It’s important at this time of year to remember the true reason for all the celebrations that are taking place. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ. Or in the case of Sunderland football club, the return of our saviour, Julio Arca as it came as no coincidence that his returned from injury sparked an almost glorious return to form for Sunderland, ending their losing streak with a fabulous, free-flowing, enthralling, superb nil-nil draw.
It’s a sad reflection on how things are going at the club that a pretty drab scoreless draw was greeted by such a gleeful reception but it was expected. After such a disastrous run of results any break from what is now the norm, a defeat, was greatly appreciated. The fact that this draw wasn’t the most interesting of affairs didn’t matter, we didn’t get beat, setting us up quite nicely for the tough festive period ahead.
With Julio coming back into the side it meant that Mick could, for once, name quite a balanced side with the Argentinean slotting into the left side and Hoyte moving back into his favoured right back position. And this balance provided a good base for an excellent Sunderland start, looking good going forward and solid at the back, however lacking any sort of cutting edge around the box. 3.15 came and went with only a few small pockets of white, many, judging from what I heard before the game, wanting change but just not believing that supporters can effect it. However, fears that this protest would affect the players were allayed as Sunderland continued to press, Arca, on a couple of occasions, making some stunning runs, cutting through the Bolton defence like a knife through butter before being hacked down just at that vital moment. But for all the pressure, the Lads only managed to carve out one real chance, Stead’s volley blocked on its path towards goal.
The second half however, was quite different with both sides carving out pretty decent chances in what was a much more even and open half of football. Gray got off a very tame effort that didn’t trouble Jaaskelainen whilst, at the other end, Davis saved bravely from the feet of Diouf. Diouf then missed an absolute sitter, firing over from the edge of the 6 yard box with Davis floundering. However, it is then Sunderland who have the better of the chances in the last 20 minutes. Lawrence fired in a low shot from outside the box, bobbling in front of Jaaskelainen but he did well to deal with it. Then, with only a couple of minutes to go, Julio picked up the ball on the edge of the box and, with seemingly no room to manoeuvre, managed to chip the ball deftly but, with it heading towards the top corner, Jaaskelainen managed to palm it wide, meaning the Lads came away with just a point.
But whilst this isn’t earth shattering stuff, this was a draw, greeted by applause by much of the crowd and it is a start, a base from which we can build on, hopefully starting this evening at Ewood Park.
Man of the Match: Julio Arca