Match Report: Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United - All Huff, No Puff As Battling Effort Not Enough

Stu Forster

Sunderland slumped to yet another defeat in the Premier League, this time it was Titus Bramble's own goal which was the deciding factor as the battle for survival becomes increasingly difficult. Here's our recap of events...

An encouraging start at the Stadium Of Light saw neither side really produce a chance of note in the opening ten minutes but very much evenly matched as Sunderland worked hard to close the visitors down at every opportunity, pressing high up the pitch.

This philosophy nearly paid dividends with less than five minutes on the clock as David De Gea's scuffed clearance landed at the feet of Danny Graham, but a heavy touch/poor pass meant Stephane Sessegnon in the area was offside when it came to him.

Meanwhile at the other end Simon Mignolet wasn't forced into much outside of the usual routine as efforts from Shinji Kagawa and Robin Van Persie barely forced the Belgian into a sweat.

The first real chance of note for either side was when young Alex Buttner bundled his way into the area, but when bearing down on goal Phil Bardsley and Mignolet did just about enough between them to force his effort wide of the mark.

Craig Gardner was having an industrious first half having been reinstated to the middle of midfield and was (in his opinion) denied a penalty on 16 minutes when in challenging for a 50-50 ball he was bumped off it by Rafael. At first glance it seemed he might have had a case but the replay suggested that referee Kevin Friend made the right decision.

We seemed to be holding ourselves well though. United had slightly the better of the opening 25 minutes but hadn't really capitalised on this period of mild dominance. So when the visitors took the lead we could count ourselves a little unlucky. It had by no means been a walkover.

A long ball over the top was collected by Robin Van Persie who was allowed quite shockingly to twist, turn and work the ball back onto his favoured left foot where he unleashed an effort which was headed well wide until Titus Bramble's unfortunate touch and the ball nestled in the back of the net.

Bardsley certainly culpable for the goal, but overall you felt at this stage we were still in it and were unlucky to be behind.

Bardsley tried to correct things after he won possession inside our area and went on a foraging run forward towards the Manchester United goal before unleashing one of his trademark strikes from distance... Well wide... Trademark.

United went on to turn the screw a little and ended the half far and away the stronger side. As anyone might have expected as despite us matching them early on there was no way we could keep that pace going.

Ashley Young's freekick was made to look more testing than it was by Mignolet at full stretch while Van Persie's freekick provided a bit more of a test as the half ended.

Looking back at the first half we should we could compete with them, but lacked many chances on goal. The second half was set up to very much go one of two ways; utter dominance from United or a vitriolic comeback.

Sunderland came out much as they did in the first half with plenty of fight ad spirit but desperately lacking in efforts on goal. Still, it was encouraging to see given the ineptitude of most our recent performances. Worth pointing out also the away side's efforts on goal had dramatically dried up too.

The first time we did manage to threaten the United goal in the second half was on the hour with a double-whammy of chances.

Adam Johnson for once beat a man and edged into the area before laying off a terrible ball to nobody in particular. As this was still struggled away the ball fell to Bardsley who really should have done better. Moments later Danny Graham dinked into the area forcing a corner which the visitors never dealt with fully and were forced into using David De Gea to embellish and injury to halt proceedings.

The pressing continued from Sunderland as we found ourselves pretty much camped in the United half. Phil Bardsley's penalty appeal fell on deaf ears and rightly so, Stephane Sessegnon's acrobatic volley went well wide but the pressure and hustle was certainly still there.

Johnson's first decent ross in three weeks caused gasps among the Sunderland faithful with Danny Graham inches away from connecting, while James McClean's determination to close down opposing defenders drew roars of approval from a noisy home crowd with 20 minutes remaining.

Johnson struck with a low effort wide of the mark shortly before he was withdrawn and replaced by Connor Wickham.

Not long after Phil Bardsley went in tough on Alex Buttner and was quickly withdrawn before things escalated. The Scottish international replaced by Seb Larsson.

Buttner dusted himself down to get a testing strike in on goal with ten minutes of normal time remaining, while at the other end Connor Wickham did well to win a header against Nemanja Vidic but Danny Graham took the wrong option and it trundled through to De Gea.

Another freekick was pumped into the area but nothing could be made of it. Sessegnon struck from distance, Wickham kept things alive but to little avail.

Wickham himself struck low with a minute of normal time remaining but De Gea was more than equal to it. When it seemed that was it a lifeline was handed when the fourth official's board showed six minutes to be added.

This was little more than false hope it transpired as Graham squandered a counter-attacking opportunity and endless long balls into the area fell to a blue shirt every time.

With the last kick of the game Robin Van Persie was denied by Simon Mignolet to stop things looking any worse, but overall there's little that matters bar the results and that will show that we've lost yet again.

Lots of effort, and against a lesser side we might get something from a game, but you just have to hope and pray now that this effort isn't too little too late.

We'll have more match reaction to today's fixture HERE in our Match Stream over the weekend too!

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