Zenden: Cats must find some consistency
olo Zenden has warned his Sunderland team-mates they need to reproduce their heroics against the big guns when they face lesser opposition. Zenden was a key figure in the Black Cats' 0-0 Barclays Premier League draw with Manchester United on Saturday as he was handed a rare start by manager Steve Bruce. The Wearsiders, who have already beaten Manchester City and drawn with both Arsenal and Liverpool this season, were more than value for their point, and indeed left the pitch at the Stadium of Light feeling they should have been doing so with all three. That is a measure of the progress Sunderland have made since Bruce was appointed last summer. However, while the have consistently performed well against English football's leading lights, they have equally often let themselves down when faced with less taxing opposition, particularly away from home, and that is a trend which will have to be addressed if they are to make a genuine challenge for a top-10 finish. The international break means they do not play again until October 18, when they head for Blackburn to play just the kind of fixture which has proved their downfall in recent times. Zenden said: "We are happy to get results. In Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United, we have played the big ones. "But sometimes for some, it is easy to show up when it's the big ones, but we have to be dominant as well when we play the smaller ones and be patient and play the ball and create our chances. "You can't expect to play Manchester United and not give away any chances. At times, they are definitely going to come at you and knock on your door, and we dealt with it well. "When you play the likes of Blackburn, you have to do the same thing, be positive, try to get on the ball and keep them away from the goal and don't give away any chances. "If we play like we did on Saturday, compact and together, we should be able to do that as well in the other games." If Sunderland turn in a similar performance at Ewood Park to the one they produced yesterday, Sam Allardyce's men will certainly have their hands full. United may have been unsettled by a burst sewage pipe in their dressing room which delayed kick-off by 20 minutes, and the Black Cats took full advantage and were unfortunate not to go in at the break with a deserved lead. Edwin van der Sar's intervention denied Steed Malbranque after he had been played in by Lee Cattermole with just 16 minutes gone and Zenden struck a post with a swerving shot which left his compatriot for dead eight minutes before the break. Bruce said: "Steed revealed to me that he thought he was offside - and the way he sauntered up to it, it looked that way too." With Wayne Rooney left at home and Dimitar Berbatov starting on the bench, United were toothless during the opening 45 minutes as Cattermole, Zenden and Malbranque swarmed all over Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher. Berbatov's arrival at the break in place of an anonymous Michael Owen gave his side greater purpose and he and Nani both went close as time ran down, but Sunderland were more than worth a point. Zenden, 34, had departed eight minutes earlier to warm applause having reminded the Wearside faithful of his enduring quality in his first league start of the season. The well-travelled Dutchman has been a frustrated by-stander for much of the campaign to date, and he is hoping he has persuaded Bruce that he has a more central role to play. He said: "Although I am the oldest in my squad with my 34 years, I still believe I can play my part, and it's always nice to be appreciated that way. "I have been around the club and they appreciate me for what I do around the dressing room and off the pitch. But I don't get enough satisfaction from that. "I still believe I can play my part on the pitch as well, and the only thing you can do is prove it on match-day and grab a chance when you get it. "I hope and believe I did that on Saturday, and we will see what happens in two weeks' time."
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