David Moyes was in a fairly downbeat mood following Saturday's loss at Anfield. Nobody enjoys losing but you get the feeling that our manager felt annoyed that we weren't able to hang on to the draw which was firmly in our grasp for 75 minutes of the game.
You have to be realistic, though - everyone expected Liverpool to turn us over in convincing fashion and, being truthful, it took an absolutely wonderful piece of individual brilliance to steal the draw from us - the game was all but dead once James Milner dispatched his penalty in the dying minutes.
Speaking in his post-match email, Moyes gave a fairly honest assessment of Sunderland's performance. He said:
It’s disappointing to lose the game after we’d done so well at keeping Liverpool out for so long. They’re the Premier League’s in-form team at the moment so we can be pleased with how well we did do against them for 75 minutes.
I’m disappointed with their first goal, I wasn’t sure if it was a cross or a shot, but somehow it managed to find its way into the back of the net. Liverpool did have a lot of chances but up until that point I thought we coped with them rather well.
We had a great chance just before they scored. Duncan Watmore had an opportunity but he took a little too long. We know when you come to somewhere like Anfield you need to be a lot more clinical and take those sort of chances.
We were hard to beat; we made Liverpool work today. I would have liked to have seen us make more of our chances, but I think the players have done a good job. It wasn’t for the purist; but it’s not our job to entertain the Anfield crowd. Our job was to come and try and get a result.
I think the Sunderland fans could see how hard the players were trying out there and how much effort they were putting in and they stuck with the game.
We were close, but not close enough.
Premier League management isn't easy and the margin for error is incredibly small - you get scrutinised down to the tiniest mistake, and though Moyes' tactical plan was largely flawless at the weekend I feel it would be unfair not to mention his decision not to withdraw Steven Pienaar way before he actually did.
It was clear to see that Pienaar was struggling with the sheer pace of the game and, as Tom Atkinson rightly pointed out this week on the Podcast, we have to scale back and remember that with Pienaar playing in the centre we're effectively placing a square peg into a round hole.
Moyes is clearly a very loyal person and has faith in Steven Pienaar due to working with him for many years, but with Sebastian Larsson now fit and ready to start playing games you have to imagine that he'd get much more from the Swede in the role that we have been asking Pienaar to play. It will be interesting to see if Moyes makes that change when Leicester City roll into town at the weekend.
I'm not so sure that I agree with Moyes on Duncan Watmore's chance - it's nowhere near as easy an opportunity as some are making out.
Granted, Watmore's touch could have been better, or he could have shot first time, but it wasn't like he botched an absolutely nailed-on goal. It would have been more fair if the focus had been placed on Watmore's work-rate on and off the ball, which was impeccable as always.
I was fairly impressed with the way that Moyes had us set up from a defensive standpoint and his comments regarding our game-plan are good to read - quite often earlier in the season I used these pages to criticise the manager and his team for their lack of playing identity and clear tactical plan, and I think that it is fair to say that in the last month or so we have definitely been given some idea as to what our identity is - I never for one second expected that it would take the introduction of Victor Anichebe to our side to give us the incredible lift that we needed, but thank god that it did. The Nigerian forward has been immense.
Moyes is right - the effort from the players was there for all to see and we should move forward into this weekend's game against Leicester City with our heads held high. If we can apply ourselves in the same way against Claudio Ranieri's side that we did at the weekend then we'll do just fine - lets look to isolate their important players and use our forwards to give the likes of Huth and Simpson something to think about.
The victories against Bournemouth and Hull were confidence-boosters but still, we have to re-focus upon the task at hand - we remain bottom of the league and anything less than two wins against Leicester and Swansea should not be deemed as acceptable, regardless of our current league standing. Moyes ended with "we were close, but not close enough" - I just hope we aren't reiterating those words come May.