Sunderland's pre-season tour of Germany was rounded off with a creditable, if a bit lucky, 0-0 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach.
The trip to Germany has been relatively succesful in the sense that newer players such as Ji Dong-Won and David Vaughan have managed to rack up several appearances and bed into the team, whilst Connor Wickham and Craig Gardner have played sporadically.
I think that's all we can really say about it, as it's not been all that great results wise, and defensive lapses have been a notable feature in our play. Particularly against Hannover 96 and yesterdays opponents Borussia Monchengladbach. Speaking of which, lets get on with the match report.Bruce opted against his favourite pre-season formation of 4-4-1-1 and stuck to a more standard 4-4-2 comprised of Simon Mignolet; Kieran Richardson, Michael Turner, Titus Bramble, Ahmed Elmohamady; David Vaughan, Craig Gardner, Lee Cattermole, Sebastian Larsson; Ji Dong-Won and Connor Wickham.
Borussia are coming towards the start of their domestic season, and were clearly the sharper. They created the best of early chances, although this was largley due to Michael Turner's inability to clear the ball on several occasions. First his clearance fell to a Borussia striker 25 yards out who fired wide, next the ball broke to Igor De Camargo off Turner however the Belgian striker managed to fire a shade over. Certainly let off's for us.
As for our own chances, Connor Wickham dragged one wide when he really should have done better, and Ji Dong-Won (who has been very impressive on tour) had a cast iron shout for a penalty turned down.This was turned down by the referee, a local fella, who clearly had the best interests of Borussia at heart.
The referee was rather whistle happy as stoppages and bookings came quite simply for daring to challenge for the ball. We could quite easily balme the ref, but lets face it, if we go to Old Trafford and Howard Webb is in charge, we'll be on the end of similar treatment so let's just get on with things.
We continued to play out the first half, and the beginning of the second with some style and control in the game without really creating a massive amount of chances, but certainly enjoyed the better of the posession.
Substitutions eventually ruined the game with both sides making a heavy amount of switches, so might as well mention who was doing well for our lot. Kieran Richardson was having a belter of a game at left-back, getting forward with purpose and being a constant nuisance. David Vaughan did ok in his unfavoured left of midfield role too, although you'd hope we manage to get a better option on the left hand side of midfield, with all due respect to Dave.
Then came the game's biggest moment, which was Titus Bramble's sending off. Booked earlier in the game as said for challenging for (and winning) the ball the same thing happened again in the second. The Borussia attacker scored a 6.0 from all judges for the dive, and the confused and bemused Bramble was sent off. Whatever happened to ref's not sending people off pre-season and telling the manager to sub him?
This was with 20 minutes left, and whilst we could have crumbled we managed to hold firm against whatever Borussia could throw at us. The closest the home side came was two headers which went comfortably wide of Mignolet's goal.
And that was the end of that. The end of Germany, and we return to these shores to take on Kilmarnock up in Scotland on wednesday before travelling to Burnley at the weekend.
I'm giving bRucey the benefit of the doubt and say this trip was all about getting fitness and sharpness, but at Kilmarnock and Burnley I'd like us to put in something of a performance.