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Hapless in Defence, Anonymous in Midfield: Stoke 2 Sunderland 0

Eight games in and Sunderland remain without a win, and in truth look miles away from registering their first three points. Stoke controlled this game and there are few positives to take, but many stark questions to be asked.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Sunderland travelled to Stoke with neither side having won a game so far this season and with pressure mounting on both managers. Mark Hughes can breathe a little easier for a week or so, but questions must rightly be asked of David Moyes.

In truth, the game was never within Sunderland’s reach. One shot on target from David Moyes' men, in the 78th minute, largely tells the tale of a match that Stoke dominated and controlled from start to finish.

Hapless defending will get the headlines, but the problem clearly lies in a midfield which for large parts of the game was either anonymous or scratching its head as to what it ought to be doing.

Hit hard by injuries, Moyes started with a back-four of Manquillo, O'Shea, Djilobodji and van Aanholt lined up ahead of Jordan Pickford; a five-man midfield comprised Rodwell, Ndong, McNair, Watmore and Khazri and Jermain Defoe continued up front.

Billy Jones replaced the injured van Aanholt on 40 minutes; Pienaar came on for McNair on 55 and Victor Anichebe represented a futile last throw of the dice replacing Jack Rodwell on 81.

Here’s how the game panned out:

Sunderland started brightly enough, well for eight minutes or so, with a couple of breaks and some decent possession. However, the inept decision-making of this squad was quickly summed up by a corner won by Duncan Watmore which was taken short by Wahbi Khazri and an immediate chance to put Stoke under quick pressure was wasted.

Stoke 1 Sunderland 0 – Joe Allen 8’

The positivity of playing reasonably well for half-a dozen minutes quickly evaporated with Joe Allen scoring after eight. All too easy for Stoke this one, with Shaqiri picking up a careless ball from Didier Ndong and finding Arnautivoic who chipped the ball across goal onto the head of Joe Allen. Nobody picked up the Welsh international, with Sunderland defenders already missing in action. Another poor goal conceded.

Sunderland’s first half-chance of the game came in the fourteenth minute when Khazri broke, but frustratingly he failed to pick out a pass to Jermain Defoe.

But, the best real chance for the visitors came two minutes later as Wahbi Khazri picked up a ball pumped up the pitch by Paddy McNair. Khazri took a decent first touch to give himself some room in order to pick out Jermain Defoe in the box, but in a move which summed up an afternoon in which nothing he tried came off, the former England international saw his shot blocked.

A second Defoe chance came after twenty five minutes with a shot which sailed agonisingly over the bar - again set up by Whabi Khazri who could have had two or three assists before the half hour mark

But, as the first half wore on, Sunderland’s weaknesses in midfield started to show allowing Stoke plenty of possession. Bony and Arnautovic could have had one each in the period before the break.

For Sunderland, on 32 minutes Papy Djilobodji could have made up for his poor start to life in a Sunderland shirt, but he failed to connect properly with a header on goal and more injury woe arrived for David Moyes on 39 minutes as Patrick van Aanholt, who had struggled for five minutes or so, limped off with Billy Jones replacing him.

45+1 Stoke 2 Sunderland 0 – Joe Allen

Just before the break, a minute into stoppage time, Stoke’s pressure paid off as Sunderland again failed to deal with the danger staring them in the face. Didier Ndong who should have been on Joe Allen like a flash, did just the opposite, and allowed him to stroke a fine volley into the back of the net. Jordan Pickford was completely unsighted and completed his first half with little to do other than pick the ball out of the back of his net - twice; those in front of him letting him down yet again.

David Moyes made no changes at half time, but the second half started as the first had ended with Stoke enjoying plenty of the play and opening up Sunderland at will.

It took the Sunderland boss 'till the fifty-fifth minute to finally see enough and he made his first change of the game with Steven Pienaar on for Paddy McNair.

Stoke continued probing and had most of the game's best chances. On the fifty minute mark Bony was allowed to curl a decent effort at the corner of Pickford’s goal but the Sunderland ‘keeper was up to the task and dove down low to beat it away.

Shaqiri could have scored in the second half and Arnautovic had a goal disallowed for offside. Charlie Adam hit the bar two minutes from time.

In truth the game remained way beyond Sunderland’s reach with the best opportunities being Jermain Defoe scuffing a half chance on the hour mark up against a decent block from Ryan Shawcross, a couple of shots from distance from Wahbi Khazri and some industry from Duncan Watmore.

Javier Manquillo summed the whole afternoon up by completely missing the ball to take a chance on the half-volley late in the day.

Victor Anichebe came on in the 81st minute for the abysmal Jack Rodwell, but again he contributed little other than giving a couple of free kicks away.

A very disappointing afternoon for Sunderland. Where David Moyes can take this squad from here is difficult to see.

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