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Match Report: Norwich City 2-1 Sunderland - It's All So Familiar...

Steve Bruce
Steve Bruce

Sunderland should have come flying out of the blocks for this one. Following a fantastic performance and a 4-0 win against Stoke last time out at the Stadium of Light, Steve Bruce surely didn't need to be the world's best motivator to fire up his team for an away game at newly-promoted Norwich? Think again.

The home side hadn't won at Carrow Road this season, so spirits were high among the travelling fans who made the long, long journey to Norwich for this Monday night encounter. It's going to be a long ride home.

As expected, Bruce stuck with the same line-up that demolished Stoke only eight days ago, meaning that Niklas Bendtner was again played as a lone frontman, with Sessegnon behind him. Ji and Wickham had to be happy with places on the bench. 

Norwich too were unchanged from their last outing, with Steve Morison preferred up top to Grant Holt.

The visitors actually started the game well, and the clock showed three minutes before Norwich could claim possession of the ball. Unfortunately, the game didn't end on three minutes.

The home side had the first sight of goal with five minutes on the clock as Titus Bramble (hilariously named Man of the Match on Sky - congratulations Newcastle fans) failed to deal with a long ball, and Wes Hoolahan should have scored, instead looping his shot over the onrushing Simon Mignolet, and the crossbar. However, the warning signs were there.

The Belgian goalkeeper seemed rattled by the incident, and proved it seconds later when he sliced a straight forward Bramble backpass into the crowd for a corner. Any less of a connection, and the ball may have been in his goal. Let off part two.

Sunderland's first chance came as Gardner rushed into the box, but was crowded out by Norwich defenders, and was unable to get the ball away, while our first shot on target followed on 20 minutes. The midfielder then should have done much better as great work by Bendtner left him with a chance on the edge of the area, but with time and space aplenty, he curled a shot into the crowd.

Minutes later, Sessegnon did well to make some space, before overhitting his pass to Bendtner. However, the big Dane showed a magnificent touch to control the ball in the air and catch it on the volley. The sweetly-struck strike was easily dealt with though by Norwich keeper John Ruddy.

That signalled the end of anything good that Sunderland were capable of, and we were heavily punished for some schoolboy defending at the other end. Elliot Bennett played a simple one-two, strolled past Seb Larsson and fizzed the ball across the box for Leon Barnett to slam it into Mignolet's goal. It's worth noting that he was the only player in the six yard box, and the blame can, and should, fall at a number of players' feet.

Despite being on the backfoot, the Black Cats still offered nothing of real quality for the remainder of the half, barring a couple of Sessegnon blazes into the stands (something which happened with disturbing regularity throughout the night) and a Bendtner volley that he couldn't get enough on.

Half time. Poor in possession, we gave the ball away far too many times, and O'Shea and Richardson were both extremely disappointing at full back. The captain in particular was struggling to find a blue shirt with almost every pass that he played. Only our on-loan frontman and Wes Brown could really finish the half with any credit.

However, as we know, Bruce isn't one to act early, and the same 11 men trotted out for the second half.

Within two and a half minutes, the game was over. Mark Tierney ran down the left, O'Shea and Elmo made absolutely no attempt to track him, and he dropped the ball perfectly onto Steve Morison's head for the Canaries' frontman to score his first Premier League goal.

At the other end, Ruddy made an excellent save after a defensive mix-up offered Bendtner a sight of goal, but the Dane could only stand and watch as his toe-poked effort sailed just wide of the upright.

Bruce then showcased his masterclass in tactics. There can be no arguments that bringing on Ji and Wickham was a good plan, but to then have three 6ft plus strikers on the field, and withdraw Seb Larsson instead of Elmo was a strange decision to say the least. The Egyptian may sometimes suffer from being a scapegoat at the club, but he was woeful, and Larsson can at least offer good delivery.

The final few minutes offered us a little hope of claiming what would have been an extremely undeserved point, as Richardson slammed home a 20-yard drive into Ruddy's far corner, but it was a case of too little, too late for the visitors, despite gaining a much-needed sense of urgency in the last few minutes.

To sum up the performance, with 30 seconds left on the clock and everyone in the Norwich half, we managed to knock a ball back to Mignolet, which was nowhere near him, went for a corner and essentially finished the game. It was a shocking end to a terrible performance.

The pressure is now firmly back on Bruce ahead of Saturday's clash with West Brom, and it would be ill-advised for him to claim that we, as fans, were being hysterical after this performance. The away support sounded good on the television, and as I said at the start of this, you have to feel for those making the journey home tonight.

The camera cut to Niall Quinn during the second half, and the Irishman looked less than happy in the stands. You can only imagine that his boss, Mr Short, is absolutely fuming.

Team (Ratings in brackets)

Starting XI: Mignolet (4), O'Shea (3), Brown (7), Bramble (5), Richardson (4), Larsson (5), Gardner (5), Vaughan (5), Elmohamady (4), Sessegnon (3), Bendtner (7)

Subs Used: Wickham (6), Dong-Won (6)

Man Of The Match: Nicklas Bendtner - Lots of neat touches, and unlucky not to get on the scoresheet had it not been for the shoulder of John Ruddy. A confident performance, and easily the only thing about the game worth a semi-smile about.

And on we go to West Brom at home. After spouting his usual rubbish at the end of this game, Bruce is going to have to hope that his team come out and tear into the visitors on Saturday, as this performance will have a lot of fans seriously questioning his position at the club.

Ha'Way The Lads.

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