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Talking Points: A win for the Lads in Dubai... so we’re all chuffed, right?

The Lads won 1-0 in a winter friendly many didn’t want to take place. Our Malc did his best to watch it, and jotted down a few thoughts…

Sunderland AFC

A win is a win - take it, get home and move on...

This will go down as one of the weirdest games I have ever watched, but getting a win in Dubai even against a team like the Saudi Premier League outfit Al Shabab continues the positive momentum that we reignited with the Brum victory.

That last league game feels like ages ago now, but bagging this oddball of a victory will have helped to keep the Lads’ eyes in a bit, and their peckers up.

The game also gave a number of the players with less fitness and sharpness a chance to get out on the grass (was it grass?) against what looked like half decent side at times, to build up for the return against Millwall next weekend.

The team didn’t play as well as they can, but when making nine subs at oranges, it was never likely to be a classic.

We will leave Dubai with the benefit of some team bonding and a very forgettable win, which I suppose is better than trying to forget a potentially morale-hitting loss.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet Championship
Aji back in action. Nice one.
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Was it worth the risk?

Whether discussing the risk of injury to a squad only just recovering from major treatment room queues, or pondering whether any repercussions will emerge off the back of the fisticuffs which marred the second half, you have to wonder: was this game worth it?

Tackles didn't take long to start flying in when we got into the second period, and I was left searching the very poor quality images to see if SAFC had sent the boys out with rainbow attire after the break… maybe they decided to make a point about the shaky human rights record of their opponents, as I had hoped they would in a recent roundtable about this whole trip. Something got the locals firing in, and it wasn't pretty.

After several two footers and overly physical collisions, the Lads had had enough of being hacked down like a Sunday league football squad and it kicked off a bit. Gooch took a red card with one of the opposition joining him, and the match looked likely to be ceased there and then. It did resume, but I remain doubtful whether it should have.

As well as being a PR disaster for the club, personally, I don’t think this was at all worth the hassle or the risk whatsoever. Surely the club could have sorted out a “behind closed doors” game which would have achieved the same or more, and likely would not have carried half as much chance of a busted shin, or a broken nose for that matter?

Hopefully Lynden will not face any retribution for his red, nobody has any major damage from the event, and we can draw a line under this and get back to league focus very soon.

Sunderland v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship
Decent at defending and attacking, as demonstrated in Dubai…Goooooch
Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Were there any plus points?

There were a couple.

Amad continued his ever-growing good form with a well-taken goal in the first half. The ball from Ba to find him in acres of space was a sweet one as well, as was Amad’s run which teed up Ellis Simms. The Manchester United loanee is going from strength to strength, and the cool way he skipped inside the defender and half-sat the goalie down before drilling the ball in was great to watch.

Another player who deserves a shout in my view is Elliot Embleton. He caused loads of issues in the first half, and hit the woodwork as well as forcing a save from their keeper (well, I think it was a save - the crap picture suggested to me he hit the post as well as the bar).

The one other thing that stood out for me was the standard of our play in the middle. All of Matete, Pritchard, Ba and Evans had solid performances, though Pritch once again didn’t quite manage to convert a good chance, putting it just over the top corner from a free kick. I’d love him to have converted that, as we do need him turning more set pieces into goals, but he played well in general.

An honourable mention also for Aji Alese who looked good on his return to the back-line. With him and Cirkin back come December and beyond, we should be in a way better place across the defence.

Sunderland v Cardiff City - Sky Bet Championship
Well played Embo
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Anything else to mention?

The cameraman... or rather, the lack of one.

The club asking anyone to pay for that stream was a disgrace, and all those who wanted the game cancelled were justified in that opinion based purely on the quality of service that emerged on Friday afternoon. I have heard rumours that refunds are on the way, and that is the least that the club should do.

If you are planning to stream a friendly, SAFC, take a lad with you with some proper kit and do a decent job, for goodness sake! One more thing to make us look ridiculous was not needed, especially after all the dozy-arsed stuff to get to this point.

A lesson for the future - if you pull some bloke from out of the sunken bar with his iPhone 14 pro max and ask him to sit on the scaffolding for a couple of hours, you get what you pay for. Said bloke will obviously try to watch the World Cup games on his other gadget while balancing his £20-a-pint warm lager on the scaffolding planks, blatantly forgetting to film the action between sips.

The sh*te picture, horrendously poor following of the action, and lack of audio was annoying for all trying to watch, but it is behind us now.

Let’s focus on getting ready for Millwall, train hard this week, and crack on ‘til Santa comes and beyond.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship
Well played again Amad.
Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images

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