In a match that was in doubt from the start, first being delayed by thirty minutes by rain and a waterlogged pitch, then having the match cut down to 40 minutes each way, Sunderland put in an impressive performance as they swept aside Tottenham Hotspur.
Paolo Di Canio had spoken of coming to win the Barclays Asia Trophy and that showed from the start, as he picked what was probably the strongest possible line-up from the players available to him in Hong Kong.
The match itself started slowly, with both sides struggling to come to terms with the waterlogged pitch. It was particularly bad in midfield, where the ball was holding up and was making the players unsure of the bounce. Cabral was a victim of this after two minutes, as he miss controlled the ball, which led to Wes Brown giving away a free kick for a foul on Dempsey and that led to the first shot of the match, although it didn't trouble Mannone.
Sunderland soon grew into the match however and started creating chances, with Spurs struggling to cope with Stephane Sessegnon pulling the strings. Sessegnon himself took advantage of a Caulker mistake, only to see Dawson block his shot and Seb Larsson put the rebound well wide. The chances kept coming in the first 10 minutes, with Giaccherini going close twice, Cabral seeing a shot blocked after being played in by Altidore and Johnson should have done better with a follow up shot but was unable to take advantage of Gomes being out of position.
Then another heavy rain shower saw the match slow down, as both sides looked to play it safe in tricky conditions. On 27 minutes, Spurs took the lead as Kyle Walker, who was attacking down the right, sent in a cross that was met by Sigurdsson in the box and his shot took a big deflection off O'Shea and left Mannone with no chance.
That sparked Sunderland into life and Altidore was soon denied by Gomes after great work by Sessegnon to create the chance, then a floated ball into the box by Cabral was just missed by Johnson. Sunderland weren't to be denied though, as Altidore capitalised on a sloppy bit of play by Tom Huddlestone to play in Cabral who ran to the edge of the area and slotted a neat equaliser past Gomes.
Sunderland ended the half in the ascendency as Craig Gardner went close with two long range strikes, one of which, from a free kick, was unconvincingly saved by Gomes. Although Sunderland started and ended the half well, 1-1 was probably a fair score going into the break.
Within seconds of play resuming after half time, Jozy Altidore combined with Sessegnon, who crossed to the right hand side of the penalty area where Johnson headed back towards goal to where an unmarked Altidore was waiting but he could only snatch at the chance and Gomes gathered comfortably.
There was then a lengthy delay as Jan Vertonghen was stretchered off minutes after coming on as a substitute at half time and he was replaced by Zeki Fryers. Seconds after play restarted, Altidore had another chance, after he was set up by Giaccherini, the big American swivelled to find space but sent his shot just wide of the far post.
Sunderland were soon thankful to good defending and the reflexes of Vito Mannone, as Tottenham had a good spell but couldn't find a goal as first Colback blocked Defoe's shot and then Mannone made two great saves, first from Adebayor and then Defoe.
With Sunderland under the cosh, Di Canio made two changes on the hour mark, with El Hadji Ba and David Moberg Karlsson replacing Seb Larsson and Adam Johnson. Moberg Karlsson made an immediate impact when his corner found the head of Wes Brown, who powered a header past Brad Friedel at the far post.
After that it was all Sunderland, as we looked to extend our lead. First Cabral played a great ball over the top to Sessegnon, who played in his fellow striker, Altidore, whose shot was well saved by Friedel. The resulting corner was cleared to the edge of the box where Ba struck a powerful shot, that brought another good save from the evergreen goalkeeper.
Connor Wickham then came on for Altidore and almost scored with his first touch, as his header was brilliantly saved again by Friedel. Sunderland were not happy with two goals though and kept attacking until Sessegnon's clever flicked pass found Moberg Karlsson in the last minute, who ran in on goal and coolly passed the ball past Friedel, to wrap up an impressive 3-1 win.
Yes, it was only a pre-season game but both sides played to win, which made the manner of our victory all the more impressive. It was a very good team performance, with some outstanding individual displays by Wes Brown, Adam Johnson and Cabral, plus noteworthy cameos from Moberg Karlsson and Ba. Altdiore and Giaccherini looked very tidy, with Altidore linking up well with Sessegnon and Giaccherini showing a calmness and vision on the ball.
A special word has to go to Stephane Sessegnon though, who worked his socks off and was at the heart of everything good that came from Sunderland. Although there has been talk of the club willing to listen to offers for the Benin playmaker, on this display we have to hope he will have done enough to cement his place in the side alongside Jozy Altidore.
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