Sunderland 1-0 Stoke City: Player Ratings

Gareth Copley

Sunderland vs. Stoke is surely one of the top pick games in the Premier League every season, today's fixture was the usual entertainment spectacular...

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Vito Mannone - 9

Another commanding performance from Sunderland's Great White Shark. More on him below...

Phil Bardsley - 6

Most of Stoke's attacks in the first half came down Sunderland's right hand side, and a couple of times the right back was guilty of letting Oussama Assiadi cut inside to shoot or swing in a cross. He also managed to pick up a rather silly yellow card when a late swing of his boot chopped down Steven N'Zonzi. However, this isn't to say that he had a particularly poor evening. Mostly he looked pretty solid, and managed to get forward for a decent shot with a bouncing ball early on. Subbed off at half-time with a back-strain, hopefully just a precaution as he'll be an important player in the derby.

John O'Shea - 8

Despite the fact that, to be honest, Stoke had the running of the game for large periods, Sunderland's centre-half partnership never looked shaky. A couple of times he managed to obstruct Vito Mannone and force the Italian into second saves, but both times I'd say that the captain was merely being committed to his defensive duties when he didn't have an option but to make sure he stayed on the man and the ball. He also managed a few crucial blocks and defensive headers to make sure that the team from the Potteries didn't bag a frustrating equaliser.

Wes Brown - 8

A performance very similar to that of his centre-back partner. Brown never looked unduly bothered by the Stoke attack, and managed to clear out much of the danger when it bobbled around the penalty area. Big Bad Wes also managed a very important moment with a fantastically alert clearance after a Ryan Shawcross header was saved excellently by Mannone.

Marcos Alonso - 7

The Spaniard looked fairly comfortable today, in the first half most of Stoke's attacking threat was coming down the opposite flank and again they didn't get much joy down the left in the second half. He also showed glimpses yet again of his ability going forward as he put in a brilliant delivery across the face of the goal that no one gambled on enough to connect with. There were maybe a few times in the second half when he could have been a bit more composed in front of goal - once looking to cross when he should have had a shot, and another time chipping the ball into the box and catching the rest of his team flat-footed.

Jack Colback - 5

There were a few times tonight when Colback showed the sort of positivity he really needs to add to his play, trying more ambitious through balls and long passes to open up the Stoke defence, and he also linked up nicely with Craig Gardner to have a shot parried out for a corner with the last kick of the game. The rest of the game was typically Colback; taking lots of touches on the ball as he made up his mind and slowing the play down often. Perhaps considering our struggles in the second half just to keep hold of the ball it might actually have worked better for us if more players had been Colback-esque today.

Ki Sung-Yueng - 4

A surprisingly poor performance from Ki today. Restored to the base of the midfield after Lee Cattermole was left out of the squad, the Korean was nowhere near as influential today as he has been of late. In fact he was very very sloppy in possession, managing to give the ball away in dangerous areas a couple of times and when Sunderland needed to just settle on the ball a bit in the second half he was unable to provide the control in the middle that he has previously. Considering the huge success Ki has had playing further forward in recent weeks, it would be great if someone like Liam Bridcutt could come in to provide that solid, calm base at the back of the midfield to allow the Korean to strut his stuff further forward.

Seb Larsson - 5

Similarly to the other two, Seb didn't manage to exert any real control over the game in the middle. He also managed to waste a couple of chances early on in the first half. Firstly when Fabio Borini gave him the ball in a quick break the Swede could have quickly played his team-mate back in for a good shooting opportunity, instead he decided to take the shot on himself and though it wasn't a poor effort I felt Borini would have been in a better position to score had Larsson completed the one-two. Later on he blazed well over after great work from Johnson found him in the box, although the ball had come a little bit behind him.

Adam Johnson - 7

In the opening phases of the game Johnson showed exactly why he's been in such fine form so far in 2014. He gave Erik Pieters at left-back a torrid time, and managed to put a few decent balls into the box as well as getting beyond him. His goal was a perfect example of what he's been doing right recently. Borini did well to get a shot away, but Johnson gambled on Asmir Begovic spilling the ball. When he did, the winger was there to pick up the loose ball, and then canny enough to take another touch to give him the room to scuff it past the prone keeper and give Sunderland the lead. However as Stoke started to get a greater hold on the game, Johnson faded. His only other two moments of note were a nice ball across the face of goal in the second half that Jozy Altidore just failed to connect with, and a lovely cross following on from a short corner that Wes Brown headed wide.

Jozy Altidore - 7

A battling performance from the American. He was given only one real chance on goal when the ball came to him quickly in the box - here his shot was straight at Begovic but he didn't really have a chance to do much more with it. Other than that his touch was often a tad sloppy, but he gave Ryan Shawcross a physical battle that few ever manage to. He also did well to burst past the Stoke defence before going down under the attentions of Steven N'Zonzi when the Stoke midfielder was sent off. You could perhaps say he went down a tad easily, but there was a definite tug back and clip from the Frenchman and it was the right call from Altidore. Overall it was a decent game from Altidore, and he certainly offered far more of a headache for the Stoke defence than his replacement Steven Fletcher did.

Fabio Borini - 7

I liked Borini's performance today. He was in a tight space on the edge of the box when he managed to get away a shot that was powerful enough to force Begovic to parry into the path of Adam Johnson for the opening goal. Throughout the rest of the game he managed to give the Sunderland defence a bit of a breather a few times by bursting forward with strong runs, even if the follow-up ball was often not quite right. He adds directness and speed to the Sunderland attack, and I think that's an important string to our bow.

Ondrej Celustka - 4

On at half-time for the injured Bardsley Celustka was really not great. He consistently wasted attacking opportunities with poor touches, and made a skittish figure in defence as well. I really hope Bardsley is back for Saturday as I wouldn't be confident with Celustka at full back.

Steven Fletcher - 4

Well, I think it was him. Someone certainly came on for Altidore. Although he wasn't exactly fed a whole load of chances after he came on, the Scotsman's touch was poor whenever the ball did come to him and it just never managed stick for him. With Nacho Scocco coming in, you wouldn't be hugely hopeful for Fletcher's chances of starting at the weekend.

Craig Gardner - 5

Came on late on for Adam Johnson to shore things up a bit. Has an angry face. I've got nothing else.

Man of the Match - Vito Mannone

Vito was excellent again today, with two saves in particular being the pick. The first came in the opening half when he came for a diagonal ball to his back-post, although he caught it he was then bundled into by the onrushing John O'Shea and lost his grip on the ball. Rather than losing his concentration or trying to claim for a foul, the Italian was back up again and dived to prevent Peter Crouch turning home the lose ball. Great awareness and reactions. Later on in the half a cross found Ryan Shawcross unmarked in the box, the Stoke captain's diving header was parried away at point blank range by Sunderland's keeper before being cleared by Wes Brown. In the summer who could've imagined that Arsenal's little heralded third choice keeper would turn out to be such a great performer?

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