FA Cup: Quality fails to match endeavour at Sunderland

03 January 2009 07:35
Two virtually first-choice Premier League teams showing their total commitment to a full-blooded FA Cup tie as they both pressed flat out for victory? Surley, it will never catch on.

The galvanizing powers of an unwanted replay should not be under-estimated, and certainly there could be no accusatory fingers pointed at either camp for their approach to a venerable competition which in recent years has had its reputation somewhat tarnished by the indifference shown to it by many of their top flight counterparts.

Even the total of five joint changes was largely down to injury and suspension but that, however, is where the bouquets cease because frankly, the quality failed to match the endeavour.

That will matter little to the hosts, who gained ample revenge for Bolton's emphatic 4-1 victory here in November, the last match of Roy Keane's reign.

Where Keane failed to secure an FA Cup victory in his near two and a half years in charge, it has taken Ricky Sbragia precisely a week to do just that since his permanent appointment, with Sunderland's first win over league opposition in this competition since 2005 securing their place in the last 32 for the first time in three years.

"I put out a side I felt could win this game and get us through," Sbragia said after securing victory over the club where he worked as a coach until returning to the Stadium of Light 14 months ago.

Where Keane would happily chop and change his side, his successor preaches continuity in his team selection. "We need to win games to breed confidence in the squad," he added. "It was important to get back on track after a poor performance at Everton."

Kenwyne Jones had already twice been denied by goal-line clearances from Ricardo Gardner either side of the interval before the Trinidadian paved the way for victory with a sixth-goal of a season truncated by injury some 12 minutes into the second half.

Gretar Steinsson earned a booking for bringing down El Hadji Diouf and when Kieran Richardson swung over the free-kick from the left, there was Jones at the near post to direct a powerful header past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

After a four-hour wait for that goal, Sunderland's next took just eight subsequent minutes, arriving courtesy of an inviting cross from Carlos Edwards, who shortly before had clipped the bar with a 20-yard drive.

Djibril Cisse reacted first to Edwards' centre, powering home a volley from 15 yards, although Sunderland's passage into the last 32 was not sealed without the odd frayed nerve or two when Bolton substitute Ebi Smolarek halved the deficit with 12 minutes remaining as his deflected cross looped in over Fulop.

"We were night and from our performance here in November," Gary Megson, the Bolton manager admitted after watching his side fail to create a clear-cut chance other than Smolarek's late consolation. "We've got too many people not playing as well as I know they can and that has to change quickly."

Match details

Sunderland: Fulop, Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, Collins, Edwards (Reid 82), Whitehead, Richardson (Tainio 78), Diouf, Jones, CisseSubs: Colgan, Miller, Chopra, Yorke, Healy. Booked: Whitehead, TainioGoals: Jones 57, Cisse 67.Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Shittu, Andrew O'Brien, Samuel (Riga 86), Nolan, Muamba, Gardner, Taylor, Elmander, Davies (Smolarek 73)Subs: Bogdan, Basham, Obadeyi, Hunt, FojutBooked: Muamba, Shittu, Steinsson, Nolan, TaylorGoals: Smolarek 79Referee: Steve Bennett (Kent).

Source: Telegraph