Sunderland lost yet another home game this afternoon, this time against Neil Warnock’s Cardiff City, with goals from Craig Bryson and Joe Ralls sandwiched either side of a Lynden Gooch penalty consigning Simon Grayson’s side to a place in the bottom three.
In truth, Sunderland deserved nothing from the game and it’s looking increasingly difficult to see just where we go from here.
Here’s how it went - and how the players rated.
Sunderland XI: Robbin Ruiter, Adam Matthews, Bryan Oviedo, Lamine Kone, Tyias Browning, Marc Wilson, Didier NDong, Lee Cattermole (c), George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch, James Vaughan
Subs: Jason Steele, Aiden McGeady, Brendan Galloway, Darron Gibson, John O’Shea, Joel Asoro, Ethan Robson
Cardiff XI: Neil Etheridge, Jazz Richards, Bruno Ecuele Manga, Sean Morrison (c), Joe Bennett, Aron Gunnarsson, Joe Ralls, Craig Bryson, Liam Feeney, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, Kenneth Zohore
Subs: Brian Murphy, Lee Tomlin, Sol Bamba, Greg Halford, Loic Damour, Omar Bogle, Junior Hoilett
Sunderland started the game decently enough and initially looked as competent as their foes. Lynden Gooch won the first corner of the game, though nothing came of it, and Cardiff’s first set-piece of the match was won after George Honeyman brought down Liam Feeney - but the danger was cleared there, too.
The home side had an early scare as Marc Wilson was shrugged off the ball by Kenneth Zohore, but the striker was denied sight on an open goal as the referee penalized him for his barge.
It wouldn’t be long, however, before the visitors did more than just threaten. A route one ball from the visitors went over the heads of the Sunderland back line and fell into the path of Craig Bryson, who tapped this delivery past Robbin Ruiter as Lamine Kone looked on.
The trademark Lee Cattermole yellow card would prove to not be too far away, with the Black Cats’ captain booked before the quarter-of-an-hour mark for a reckless challenge.
Cardiff were on top from then on, the Bluebirds soaring forward with the Black Cats grounded in their own half. Nathaniel Mendez-Laing sending plenty of dangerous balls into the mixer as Bryan Oviedo struggled to contain him.
Sunderland grew into the game somewhat with a handful of half chances. Oviedo weaved his way through the Cardiff flank before squaring the ball to George Honeyman, but the academy graduate’s shot was gathered comfortably by Cardiff’s ‘stopper Neil Etheridge. Dider NDong would then get himself into a good position, but skied his effort over the bar.
The lads’ best chance of the first interval came from Oviedo. The Costa Rican international, supplied by NDong, charged forward and let loose an effort from 25 yards out - only to be denied by the post.
The opening half would end with the visitors ahead by one goal to nil - Sunderland ultimately being made to pay once again for a defensive error and a lack of remarkability going forward.
Half Time: Sunderland 0 - 1 Cardiff City (Bryson 7’)
The lads seemed to have a few more ideas once play resumed. Whilst the preferred mode of transport was still long balls that landed at the feet of the oppositions ‘keeper, Honeyman and Gooch were making things happen in the final third.
A searching pass from Kone found Gooch who picked out Honeyman on the right flank, but the Cardiff defense were quick to intervene. Honeyman would continue to ask questions of the oppositions defense down that side, but he couldn’t find the net himself.
Eventually, the graft from the youngsters would pay off. Sunderland got forward once again and won a penalty, which would be taken by Gooch - with the USA international making no mistake and sending Etheridge the wrong way. The lads were back in the game.
The visitors ramped up the pressure in an attempt to reclaim their lead, but Ruiter did what he needed to when he was called into action, making a handful of crucial saves. Cattermole too was on hand to keep the visitors out, as he headed a goalbound effort off the line.
Sunderland’s lead wouldn’t last, however. Kone, almost inexplicably from the home fans point of view, gave away a penalty following an apparent push on the man he was marking. Just like Gooch, Cardiff midfielder would make no mistake, and gave his side the lead once again as he converted from the spot.
The visitors would almost double their goal advantage shortly after they earned it as a shot from a dangerous area was scooped over the bar. Questioned would continue to be asked of the Sunderland defense as Oviedo scythed down Mendez-Laing from the left of the penalty box, but a header from Cattermole did enough to clear the danger.
Substitute Aiden McGeady tried to make things happen for the home side as he linked up with Gooch, but both players lacked a decisive final ball.
Sunderland ultimately ran out of ideas as the game drew to a close, and the game finished 1-2 to Cardiff City. Our agonizingly long wait for a home win goes on.
Full Time: Sunderland (Gooch 53’, pen) 1 - 2 Cardiff City (Bryson 7’; Ralls 73’, pen)
Robbin Ruiter - 7/10: Did well to keep out Cardiff once we drew level, was ultimately let down by his defence.
Adam Matthews - 6/10: Pretty average contributions both offensively and defensively.
Lamine Kone - 3/10: Did little more than watch on as the visitors went ahead and handed them the lead once again through a penalty. Aye.
Marc Wilson - 5/10: Just as unimpressive as his center-back partner, but without the glaring error of giving away a spot-kick. Would’ve been rated a lot lower if he’d let Zohore through on goal in the opening minutes.
Bryan Oviedo - 7/10: Did pretty well, all things considered. Struggled to contain Mendez-Laing at the start of the game but grew into it a lot more as it went on.
Tyias Browning - 5/10: Okay. Played out of position for the most part.
Lee Cattermole - 4/10: Very frustrating for large portions of the match. Really doesn’t offer that much these days.
Didier NDong - 5/10: Less frustrating than Catts but not great.
George Honeyman - 6/10: Looked a threat going forward and linked up well with Gooch prior to us getting our equaliser.
Lynden Gooch - 7/10: Probably threatened the most of any Sunderland player today and worked well with both Honeyman and McGeady. Took his penalty well.
James Vaughan - 4/10: Worked very hard, but in truth was in Manga’s pocket all game.
Aiden McGeady (for Honeyman 60’) - 6/10: Positive in intent but lacked anything clinical.
Joel Asoro (for NDong ‘79) - 5/10: Didn’t really make an impact.
Ethan Robson (for Oviedo ‘79) - 5/10: Once again, didn’t do much.
Man of the Match: Giving it to Lynden Gooch for his hard work and successful conversion of his penalty kick.