Passion, commitment and determination are all qualities which the fans want to see in their team and today we were given them all. Every player in a Sunderland shirt gave their all for the cause and filled each and every supporter with more hope for survival. There could be many reasons for why weíre starting to see a better Sunderland; the return of Richardson must of course be one of those reasons. However, the most crucial factor, in my opinion, is the return of Jonny Evans.
We never really managed to replace Evans in the summer and his quality was there for all to see today. Perhaps not many people noticed it, but young Evans controlled the defence from start to finish. He installs confidence in his fellow players, which was evident in Gordonís fine display, and also the fans.
Portsmouth could and really should have taken the lead in the eighth minute. Benjani got on the end of Hreidarssonís header, though the striker scuffed his shot across Craig Gordonís goal. Pompey again had a good chance to go ahead early on, this time through Kranjcar whose fierce left foot effort was well stopped by Gordon. We began to press from this point forward and almost made our pressure count through Anthony Stokes. The Irishman got on the end of a fierce cross from Murphy, unfortunately though his header went well over. Kenwyne Jones highlighted the playerís attitude not to give up for the first goal. A long ball over the job from Evans appeared to be heading out for a goal kick, until Jones shrugged of Sol Campbell and raced away to the ball. Jones lay the ball into the path of Kieran Richardson who slotted the ball past James. A terrific move finished off in style.
The game became more open from this point and allowed us to grab a counter attacking goal. Richardson latched onto a lay off from Murphy and comfortably passed Hreidarsson into the right side of the box where he coolly knocked the ball over James. Cue ecstasy, 2-0 up at home to the best away team in the league.
Half Time: 2-0
The second half was worryingly open and Portsmouth were cutting us open on counter attacks, we could have easily found ourselves at 2-2 or 2-3 down .Thankfully this didnít happen due to a great clearance off the line from Evans and some all round good defending as a team. We bossed the game from start to finish; although some may say Portsmouth were missing some crucial players that factor is irrelevant. The lads can only go out and try and beat whatís in front of them and thatís exactly what they did. They chased, harried and gave everything they had for each other.
Kieran Richardson could have grabbed himself a hat-trick, though the cross bar thwarted his thunderbolt of an effort. Although we had large amounts of the ball, James didnít have to make save after save which would be the only criticism to come out of the game. After a lot of criticism from fans it was nice to see that Craig Gordon had been paying absolutely no attention to some idiotic comments on his ability and showed today that he is a good goalkeeper when he has a good defence in front of him. Anthony Stokes and Daryl Murphy also did a great deal to silence critics with fantastic displays from the two.
Full Time: 2-0
MOTM Ė Jonny Evans. Evans had a fantastic Premier League debut for Sunderland and no doubt his quality will play a big part in where we end up come the end of the season.