Sunderland were defeated today away at top of the league Portsmouth in what was a fiesty, bad-tempered affair which was ultimately decided when a dubious red card shown to Glenn Loovens for giving away a penalty changed the game.
The loss leaves Sunderland eight points behind Pompey, though we have two games in hand, and its only our second defeat of the season - though it’s a massively disappointing one when you consider we were the better team in the first half, and only fell short once the teams became uneven.
Despite Luke O’Nien’s goal making it 2-1, Sunderland couldn’t cause further damage and Pompey were fairly comfortable in winning the game from there on - a huge three points for Kenny Jackett’s side who now extend their lead at the top of League One heading into the busy festive period.
Portsmouth: Craig MacGillivray, Nathan Thompson, Jack Whatmough, Matt Clarke, Lee Brown, Tom Naylor, Ben Thompson, Jamal Lowe, Gareth Evans (c), Ronan Curtis, Oli Hawkins
Subs: Alex Bass, Anton Walkes, Christian Burgess, Ben Close, Andre Green, David Wheeler, Brett Pitman
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Jack Baldwin, Glenn Loovens, Reece James, Luke O’Nien, Max Power, George Honeyman (c), Lee Cattermole, Lynden Gooch, Aiden McGeady, Duncan Watmore
Subs: Robbin Ruiter, Bryan Oviedo, Alim Ozturk, Chris Maguire, Dylan McGeouch, Josh Maja, Jerome Sinclair
The first half of Sunderland’s encounter at Fratton Park was a full-blooded, end-to-end affair, with each side’s speed and tenacity on the break matched formidably by the other’s.
Aiden McGeady’s trickery and Duncan Watmore’s sheer velocity were our most prominent outlets in the opening exchanges, while Luke O’Nien and Reece James both did a tremendous job of cutting out the opposition and feeding key passes through to our forward players.
Watmore had a great chance for Sunderland when he ran the length of the pitch and used pace unhindered by a year-long injury to race round his man and into the box; unfortunately the retreating Pompey defenders were just able to cut him out before he could get a true connection on his shot.
Exciting though the first forty-five was, neither side managed to find an opener, nor did either put together many outstanding clear-cut chances.
The best opportunity Sunderland had was the penultimate one of the first half. Watmore was once again at the forefront of the offensive as he intercepted goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray’s short pass and squared it to Lynden Gooch, but Gooch couldn’t get his shot away.
Both teams went into interval having been neutralised by the other.
HT: Portsmouth 0-0 Sunderland
Sunderland were behind after a mere three minutes. Glenn Loovens couldn’t catch Oliver Hawkins and brought him down in the box to concede - funnily enough - both a red card and a penalty! In spite of the implementation of the double jeopardy rule!
Now, if I was a police officer in a world where a law had been introduced a week prior stating that I could only arrest or fine a robber, it would be my duty to know that rule from then on and to use it accordingly. If I were to forego that rule and use both at once, I wouldn’t be performing my job competently. This point is completely unrelated to the current match report.
Anyway, the penalty was taken and converted by Pompey captain Gareth Evans.
Before long, the deficit was then doubled. Ronan Curtis cut down his flank and into the box before firing low and beating Jon McLaughlin at his near post.
A strong, foreboding feeling of ‘game over’ seemed to encompass the fanbase, but the players fought for a resurgence when O’Nien halved the disadvantage. A sumptuous cross from Max Power was floated into the path of the aforementioned and relatively unmarked O’Nien, who hits it beyond ‘keeper MacGillivray.
Unfortunately, any hopes of a repeat of the Walsall/Peterborough game were swiftly extinguished when the home side got their third. Sunderland cleared a corner from Portsmouth but only as far as Ben Thompson, who fired it through the mixer and into the back of the net.
Due in no small part to their man advantage and their momentum from the third goal, Pompey were on top for the remainder of the match. Sunderland leave Fratton Park today having recorded only their second loss and - frustratingly - what should soon be their second rescinded red card of the season.
FT: Portsmouth 3-1 Sunderland (Evans 48’ P, Curtis 53’, O’Nien 57’, Thompson 63’)
Jon McLaughlin, 5/10: Could’ve done better for Portsmouth’s second.
Jack Baldwin, 5/10: Relatively average in what was a bad day for the back line.
Glenn Loovens, 3/10: Looked like a slow, exploitable weak point in the team in the first half and showed himself to be exactly that in the second. Still though, see my shoehorned rant about the double jeopardy ruling above.
Reece James, 6/10: Played some incisive passes forward and chucked a few decent tackles about.
Luke O’Nien, 8/10: Seemed to be everywhere at once in the first half and still managed to keep up his industrious effort in the second despite his side being a man down. Fully deserved a goal to foreground his efforts.
Max Power, 6/10: Alright. Floated in a lovely cross for our only goal.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Certainly not as effective as O’Nien but still solid enough.
Lee Cattermole, 4/10: Seldom managed to keep up with Portsmouth when they went on the break. Not a great showing from him.
Lynden Gooch, 5/10: Would’ve liked him to have done better with his chance in the first half.
Aiden McGeady, 5/10: Started the game brightly but his trickery didn’t really get him anywhere.
Duncan Watmore, 6/10: First touch wasn’t brilliant but his runs down the wing gave Pompey plenty to think about. Really happy to see that his pace hasn’t been affected by his injury.
(SUB) Jerome Sinclair, 5/10: Game was flat by the time he came on.
(SUB) Chris Maguire, 6/10: Chased down what he could but ultimately couldn’t make an awful lot happen.
(SUB) Alim Ozturk, 6/10: Made a few good last ditch clearances.
Man of the Match: Luke O’Nien
Attendance: 19,402 (2637 Sunderland fans)