Sunderland 2 Blackburn Rovers 1
Bruce can see the signs of early Sunderland progress. IN the end Sunderland can count themselves lucky to have emerged with a second win of the season. For Steve Bruce, however, the outcome offered the satisfaction that he is doing things the right way at the Stadium of Light. With statistics in Blackburns favour of 18 shots to eight and ten corners to none, Bruce is the first to admit that his attempts to put his stamp on the team is very much a work in progress after riding their luck on Saturday. Having spent the last few years weighing up the best way to take on Sunderland, the former Birmingham and Wigan manager was well placed to make an immediate judgement on the area of the team he felt needed strengthening: the spine. A couple of new strikers, two new central midfielders and a pair of fresh defenders should all be available at Stoke City next weekend, illustrating the area where Bruce has been focusing on. But what that fails to show is a determination to bring a new resilience to the way Sunderland play and, when that was lacking against Blackburn, the likes of Lee Cattermole and Lorik Cana inspired their teammates to dig in. The result Sunderland overturned a one goal deficit to claim a victory they had not looked capable of for long periods, an outcome last seasons team are unlikely to have reached. Ive played Sunderland three or four times as a manager and this club was in the Championship two years ago, said Bruce. I identified, when I played Sunderland, that they didnt have enough physically to deal with my Wigan team, my Birmingham team, a Bolton or a Blackburn. To play in the Premier League now, as weve just seen all of that lot were 6ft 2in and some were 6ft 5in and if you cant physically match them, then youre goosed. That was certainly the case in the opening 21 minutes, when Blackburn had already had a goal disallowed and one cleared off the line before taking the lead. Sunderland, with goalkeeper Marton Fulop struggling with the heel injury that almost ruled him out, had been unable to deal competently with the aerial presence of defender Chris Samba in the area. It was, ironically, the Black Cats own making when Blackburn took the lead. After Fulop tipped away an El-Hadji Diouf drive for a corner, Morten Gamst Pedersens delivery had to be cleared off the line by the covering Cattermole. His clearance rolled only as far as the on-rushing full-back Gael Givet and the Frenchmans low drive flew through a crowded area and into Fulops net. Sunderland seemed incapable of dealing with Blackburns route one approach that Sam Allardyce has taken with him to Ewood Park, yet they dug in and found the equaliser 11 minutes later. Cattermole headed a Blackburn throw into the path of Steed Malbranque. He picked out Kenwyne Jones, who had broken in behind the Blackburn defence, and the Trinidad & Tobago striker lifted the ball around the stranded Paul Robinson before tapping into an empty net. While most of the players celebrated, Anton Ferdinand crossed words with Bruce, who let it be known the defending for Blackburns set pieces was not good enough. There was more to follow with captain Danny Collins. I just said to Danny Collins youve done it your way for a couple of years and it hasnt been very good, has it, said Bruce, knowing eight of his starting line-up were involved in last seasons relegation fight. Things are said in the heat of the moment. What is said in the dressing room will stay in there, but Im glad that they showed a bit of something back at me. It means something to them. Its going to take time. Thats what we all need. Because of the transfer window I cant just buy a new team. To be fair to the players who have been here before and got the club out of the Championship and kept them in the Premier League just it just shows the task weve got ahead. Bruce hinted that he could renew interest in Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh this week, which would take his spending to well over £30m from his first summer in charge. One piece of business he has already pulled off, though, is paying dividends. Nine minutes after half-time, when Blackburn wasted further opportunities to score through Nikola Kalinic and Steve Nzonzi, Cattermole showed he also has an eye for a pass to go with his crunching tackles. Richardson fed the £6m man down the left, the 21-year-old delivered a pinpoint centre on to the head of Jones, whose powerful free header could not be stopped by Robinson. Lee is a different animal to what he was a couple of years ago, said Bruce. He is 21, epitomises what I like in a footballer and he and Lorik Cana have given us a competitive edge. We are from the North-East we need a team who stands up and is counted. Everyone thinks Lee is just a digger, but he has shown he is more than that. His cross for the goal was a wonderful piece of skill, I didnt know he could do that. Blackburn had another goal ruled out moments after Jones second, when Samba was clearly obstructing Fulop in an offside position when Nzonzi looped a header inside the far post. Benni McCarthy, on as a substitute, also headed against the bar. The worst miss of the lot came in the dying seconds, however, when Kalinic, a £6m Croatian making his debut, somehow shot nearer to the corner flag than the goal when he tried to turn Fulops half clearance goalwards. Sunderland lacked plenty, but still won. Attitudes are changing on Wearside and so are expectations. Match facts Goals: 0-1: Givet (21, struck Cattermoles clearance first time low through a crowded area); 1-1: Jones (32, knocked Malbranques pass over Robinson before tapping in) 2-1: Jones (54, nodded Cattermoles perfect centre in from six yards) Bookings: Cattermole (45, foul); Bardsley (81, foul); McCarthy (90, foul) Referee: Alan Wiley (Burntwood) - correctly ruled out two Blackburn goals, even if he did wrongly hand Cattermole a card. 6 Attendance: 37,106 Entertainment: SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): 4 Fulop: Perhaps he was not fully fit because he was often the cause of Rovers chances 6 Bardsley: Had to deal with Pedersen and succeeded in stifling the threat more often than not 5 Ferdinand: Occasionally out of position and had another heated discussion with Bruce near the touchline 6 Collins: The pick of the defenders, but still found it difficult against Samba and Co 5 McCartney: Clearly fears the worst for the next game after being withdrawn just after the hour 5 Malbranque: Played a fantastic through ball to Jones for the opener, but that was about it. 7 Cana: His partnership in the middle with Cattermole should put the frighteners on many opponents 8 CATTERMOLE: Along with many trademark tackles he showed theres also plenty more to his game. 6 Richardson: Never reached the levels he is capable of and Bruce will expect more 8 Jones: Took his first goal exceptionally well and showed how vital he is to the team this season 5 Bent: Hardly had a touch going forward and most of his best work was done at the back. Subs: Nosworthy (for McCartney 61): With Mensah and Da Silva nearing starts, he needs to stake a claim quickly. 5 Henderson (for Malbranque 77) Campbell (for Bent 90) Subs (not used): Gordon (gk), Campbell, Leadbitter, Reid, Healy. BLACKBURN (4-4-2): Robinson 5; Jacobsen 5, SAMBA 7, Nelsen 6 (Olsson 46, 5), Givet 7; Pedersen 7, Andrews 7, Nzonzi 6, Diouf 5 (McCarthy 71); Roberts 6, Di Santo 5 (Kalinic 14, 4). Subs: Brown (gk), Emerton, Grella, Hoilett. MAN OF THE MATCH LEE Cattermole delivered the type of display that drove Sunderland to victory.
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