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Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship

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Matchday Musings: Day to forget for Sunderland as Burnley turn in a quality performance

Lulling everyone into a false sense of security with a two goal lead, Sunderland were battered in the second half by a quality Burnley outfit who will surely challenge for promotion this season.

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, for the first time this season, we were shown the difference in quality between a side who were promoted via the play-offs from League One, and a team dropping out of the top flight.

We’ve now faced all three of the sides who were from the Premier League in May, and to be honest, at half time I didn’t think much of Burnley - the side led by Vincent Kompany who many expect to challenge for the top spot in the Championship this season.

That’s because in the opening 45 minutes Sunderland were fantastic value for their two goal lead. We played the better football of the two sides, we were clinical in front of goal, and the opposition didn’t really offer up much of a threat.

Taking the lead through a super finish from Amad Diallo, we continued to press and harry Burnley until we got our second just four minutes later - a left footed strike by Dan Neil which really should have been saved by the goalkeeper.

In hindsight, it feels as though going two up was probably the worst thing that could have happened.

We reemerged from the break far too relaxed, and Burnley had clearly hyped themselves up to ensure they got back into the game quickly.

Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The introduction of Manuel Benson on the right changed the flow of the game in their favour, and I thought he was absolutely excellent - he had Dennis Cirkin on toast.

Similarly, down the right they gave Trai Hume a torrid time and it was the pace down the sides that ultimately led to our downfall as the game progressed - though, the all-round collapse of the team ensured Burnley not only got back in the game but made us pay for our sloppiness.

There’s no sugarcoating it - we’re crap at defending set pieces.

With Ellis Simms, Ross Stewart, Aji Alese, and Dan Ballard sidelined, we are susceptible to conceding goals from free kicks and corners. The only outfield player with any height on the pitch today was Danny Batth - everyone else was under six feet tall.

And whilst the scorer of the first Burnley goal was hardly a giant, it’s a well-established fact that we just aren’t equipped to deal with balls into the box.

Nathan Tella headed home on 50 minutes which set the tone for the rest of the half - Burnley weren’t giving up without a fight, they had all of the momentum, and Sunderland’s inexperienced side suddenly looked a little bit shellshocked.

They continued to barrage us, and you could just feel the second goal coming after we just about got away with a bunch of half chances that we stabbed and headed clear before a Burnley player could capitalise.

Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Benson’s cross-cum-shot evaded the heads of several Burnley players, which seemed to unsight Anthony Patterson and nestled into the back of the net. In truth, he probably should have done better.

Mowbray attempted to regain some control by bringing on Jewison Bennette, but it wasn’t enough to frighten Burnley and they deservedly got the goal that put them in front just moments later - Anass Zaroury taking advantage of more sloppy defending to send the thousands of away fans into absolute delirium.

By that point, some fans had given up and had thrown the towel in - but of those that remained, most decided they had seen enough when the away side got their fourth and final goal three minutes from the end of normal time through Josh Brownhill.

Sunderland had no answer to what Burnley threw our way in that second half, and the fact they were able to bring on quality players like Jay Rodriguez and Jack Cork from the bench when a head perhaps highlights the difference in quality and the fact that Sunderland are still a long way away from being at full strength in the Championship.

Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This won’t be a popular opinion but I actually think there’s lots we can take from Sunderland’s performance, and that whilst there’s no defending sloppy defending, we have to remember where we are at.

Few sides at this level can afford to be missing so many of their senior players, but the fact is that for large chunks of the campaign so far we’ve been missing some of our best players.

This team will be a different beast after the World Cup and I’m sure that our young side has learned a lot from not only the humbling they received from Burnley this weekend but in the other defeats too.

Nobody said the Championship would be a cakewalk, so let’s lick our wounds and get on with the job at hand.

We have another hard game next week but as we’ve shown time and time again, we are capable of competing with anyone at this level - even if sometimes it’s only for 45 minutes!

My Man of the Match: I thought Corry Evans was outstanding in the first half. I know he was taken off early in the second half, but that perhaps explains why we lost control of the game. We’re a better team when he’s on the pitch.


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