After drawing at Vicarage Road on the 15th May 2016, the future looked bright for Sunderland Association Football Club. Sam Allardyce had steered the club to survival in the Premier League on the back of a run that saw the team lose only two of the last fourteen league games of the 2015-16 season.
Only six months later, and with a little help from Roy Hodgson, Iceland and Harry Kane’s inability to take corners, it was a very different story at the Stadium of Light. As Sam Allardyce became the new England national team manager, Sunderland opted for someone who apparently had been Ellis Short’s number one choice for the previous five years to replace him. Enter stage right, David Moyes.
After eleven relatively successful years at Goodison Park, Moyes was eager to get his managerial career back on track after being sacked twice in the space of three years by Manchester United and Real Sociedad, but from the off looked out of sorts in the transfer market.
He immediately raided his former club Manchester United, adding Donald Love and Paddy McNair permanently to the ranks along with Adnan Januzaj on loan for the season. These were supplemented by Papy Djilobodji, Steven Pienaar, Javi Manquillo, Jason Denayer, Victor Anichebe and Didier Ndong in the first quarter of the campaign.
The season actually started with a spirited display at the City of Manchester Stadium in what was Pep Guardiola’s first Premier League game in charge of Manchester City. After coming back from behind when Jermain Defoe cancelled out a fourth minute penalty by Sergio Aguero with twenty minutes remaining, Sunderland cruelly went down 2-1 thanks to a Paddy McNair own goal with three minutes left on the clock.
It was to be down hill from there and going into the eleventh game of the season against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth on the south coast, Sunderland were rock bottom having only managed two draws in the first ten games.
The game predictably began with David Moyes side once again conceding an early goal. With Sunderland under pressure, Jermain Defoe handed back possession to Bournemouth after finding himself in the full back position on Sunderland’s right hand side blocking a cross.
Within four passes Bournemouth switched the play to the opposite flank with a slide rule ball inside Patrick van Aanholt. Adam Smith was left with a simple cross to find Dan Gosling in the centre to finish from close range. Sunderland fans fastened themselves in for what was becoming an all too often routine Saturday afternoon.
After a previously only appearing as a substitute, the game was also the debut in the starting XI for Victor Anichebe, and with just over half an hour on the clock he got off the mark in the Premier League for Sunderland. Defoe, this time the provider, played a ball directly into Anichebe’s feet; the ex-Everton man around eight yards out with his back to goal.
The Nigerian international then proceeded to brush off the attempts of the defender to stand him up by swatting him to one side, leaving him behind in a heap, before smashing a left footed shot that seemed to rattle both posts and the bar before settling in the net.
Just maybe we’d found a spark to get our season going.
This hope was dealt a blow with half an hour on the clock – a fairly innocuous trip from Steven Pienaar resulted in the South African receiving his first yellow card from referee Mike Dean in the first half. It was then inevitable when a clumsy lunge in the second half meant David Moyes’ side went down to ten men.
Sunderland were now under pressure, and rode their luck when Junior Stanislas went clear on goal, and with Jordan Pickford to beat could only hit the post, letting Sunderland off the hook.
With fifteen minutes left on the clock, however, Sunderland had a chance to take the lead.
A clearance down Sunderland’s right hand side caught Bournemouth pushed forward and a clever flick from Jermain Defoe released Duncan Watmore to run at the defence. Watmore then slid in Anichebe as he made a bursting run through the middle and after a good first touch that took him into the box was hauled down by Adam Smith that gave Mike Dean no option but to point to the spot.
Jermain Defoe stepped up and without any trouble slotted home to Artur Boruc’s right to give Sunderland the lead.
Finger nails were bitten in the away end for the last fifteen minutes, no more so when Jordan Pickford pulled out a world-class stop for a volley that was destined for the top corner.
Although Victor Anichebe had been building up his match fitness, the effort told in the closing stages as he battled to keep the ball at the other end of the pitch for Sunderland, buffeting Bournemouth defenders and at times he looked ready to drop.
Eventually the final whistle came and for the first time of the 2016-17 season, Sunderland picked up three points in a Premier League fixture. Victor Anichebe threw his shirt into the away end and was duly mobbed as he approached the travelling fans, who as it would turn out, would only see three victories on the road for the duration of the season.
Bournemouth: Boruc, Smith, Daniels, Gosling, Francis, Cook, Stanislas (Fraser), Arter (Mousset), King, Wilshere, Ibe (Afobe) Substitutes Not Used: Federici. Ake, Mings, Pugh
Sunderland: Pickford, Jones, van Aanholt, McNair (Denayer), Kone, Djilibodji, Watmore (Love), Ndong, Pienaar, Defoe (Gooch), Anichebe Substitutes Not Used: Domingues, Manquillo, Khazri, Januzaj