Sunderland 2-1 Cardiff
What a difference a week makes. A statement made yesterday by Mick McCarthy in his post-match press conference and, most probably, echoed by most of Wearside after another over-powering and attack-minded performance took the Lads into the automatic promotion spots for the first time this year.
In comparing the two performances that McCarthy was referring to, it’s clear to see the differences are huge. Due to injuries and suspensions, over the past week since that Brighton game McCarthy has been forced to slightly reshape the team, fielding an apparently more inexperienced, with Lynch coming in for Wright and Welsh taking the place of Arca. Not only was the shape of the team different, but the game shaped up differently as well, almost immediately.
After a fast-paced and exciting first few minutes in which Sunderland set their intentions out well, Andy Welsh found space for the first time in the match, taking advantage of a defensive mistake before whipping in a tremendous cross. When nobody was able to latch onto this cross it fell dead at the feet of Gary Breen who, in a sublime fashion, took it down with one touch before whacking it into the roof of the net via. the hands of Cardiff’s hapless ‘keeper. After this, the frenetic start appeared to continue with the match, strangely not being played out in the midfield like many have become accustomed to by now, but at either end of the pitch. Both sides looked dangerous going forward, more so Sunderland with Elliott and Whitehead both having good chances before the half hour mark. Just after that half hour mark, what looked like a fairly innocuous challenge forced the promising Lynch to be taken off and replaced by Lawrence, making his first appearance of 2005. This just proceeded to bring Sunderland further on. Welsh and Whitley both created half chances for themselves before another goal was carved out. The substitute Lawrence, looking very bright in his early exchanges, combined with Whitehead who’s looped ball was latched onto brilliantly by Stewart. He knew exactly where he wanted to meet that ball and met it, in the end, with the greatest of ease, guiding it from the front to the back post past Alexander.
With Sunderland playing well and commanding a good lead it was always going to be a struggle for Cardiff to get anything out of the game but, to their credit, they made it hard work for Sunderland in the second half. Although they still looked dangerous on the attack, Cardiff managed to calm the pace of the game down a bit, reducing the tempo and allowing them much more time on the ball. This proceeded to frustrate the home side slightly. Frustration that was heightened by several missed chances, most obviously from Welsh who failed to convert from just a few yards out. Although Sunderland were still pretty much in control, as the match progressed and as has been seen for the past few home games, Cardiff found themselves getting back into the game creating better chances and more of them. Chances were missed by both Langley and Jerome and, as time progressed, Cardiff found no way back in. In the end, Vidmar’s goal, 5 minutes before time, chipping Myhre with a well struck volley, proved a consolation with Sunderland easily taking a deserved 3 points from a fairly one-side match.
They now lie in second place and with Ipswich and Wigan both slipping, seemingly more often than not at the moment, there’s every chance that that could be improved upon in the near future.