Ozturk was fantastic
After some poor pre-season showings, a tough start to the season (his performances against Charlton and Sheffield Wednesday weren’t particularly great) and a long spell out of the side, it seems that Turkish defender Alim Ozturk has been seen as a joke figure amongst supporters.
Anyone who has watched the lad play in the Checkatrade games this season, though, will concede that he’s never put a foot wrong in any of them, going about his business with ease and defending in a manner that we’ve not really seen much of this season - he’s very much a ‘kick and head it away’ type of central defender, and that’s not a slight on him.
Last night I thought he was fantastic, and I’d go as far as to say that he was Sunderland’s best player. Manchester City’s inexperienced front line never got a sniff because of him as his guile and physical strength played its part in ensuring Robbin Ruiter never had a thing to do all night.
One tackle in particular was magnificent, late in the second half as we led 2-0. An excellent little pass played in one City player down the right hand channel and, just as he was about to pull the trigger, Ozturk nipped in alongside him to make a superb challenge which not only prevented what would have been a certain shot on goal, but also went back off his opponent and out for a goal kick.
I thought it was important to give the lad some credit - he’s taken a fair bit of stick this season but he’s really not anywhere near as bad as some people think.
He had a great game. The reason for the stick he gets is not warranted. We signed him when he wasn’t fit and it has took him a while to get up to speed. Also hard to do when you not playing much. Now he is up to speed he looks a decent signing for the squad.— Richy Duggan (@richyduggan) January 23, 2019
Catts off the pace
It was pretty sad and hard to watch Lee Cattermole last night. It has been for a few months now, because despite his best efforts and willingness to give his all when he’s out on the pitch, he struggles to get around and effect games in the same way that he was able to when he was a younger man.
Manchester City played some lovely stuff in possession and watching them knock it around Catts with ease was difficult. Early in the first half he fared better when making tackles, and he did make some nice, sprayed passes out wide when there was no pressure on him, but as the game wore on he made more mistakes and struggled to cope with the energy and youth of the opposition.
I wonder if he’s carrying an injury or playing through a long-standing issue. Cattermole’s game for many years has been his ability to harry and harass his opponents, and when he’s in a midfield two it often exposes his complete inability to do that any more.
Hopefully, the short break we have between games will do him good. He was great for a spell at the start of the season and was a big reason why we were winning so many games - let’s hope he can get back up to speed soon.
The most pleasing aspect of last night’s performance was the ease with which we won the game. We never had to get out of first gear and despite Manchester City’s fantastic shape and technical play, we were organised and successfully shut them out for the full 90 minutes.
We scored two lovely goals, kept a clean sheet and got ourselves into the hat for the next round, all with a heavily-rotated side of fringe players. Job done.
It would be nice for us to get a few more of these routine victories in league action - it feels like we haven’t had one in ages!