Sunderland 1 Spurs 1: Late Keane leveller is a hard lesson for Sbragia

08 March 2009 09:08
Tottenham with a priceless late equaliser as Harry Redknapp's men continue to inch to safety. A week that started with Carling Cup anguish ended with Premier League survival looking more assured. And Keane has been central to the Redknapp revival with a goal in Wednesday's 4-0 romp against Middlesbrough and yesterday's timely intervention to dash Sunderland's hopes of victory. Relieved Redknapp said: 'It was a big point for us in the end. We got off to a bad start when they scored but then we dominated the game. We had all the possession but we missed a load of chances and you began to think that this wasn't going to be our day. 'You start to wonder with two minutes to go, but then Robbie comes up with a goal. I was not angry with the players, just frustrated when it didn't look like we were going to get our reward. 'You never give up. I ended with three at the back and seven forwards, but we had to go for it. They could have picked us off on the break but we had to take that chance. We needed the point. It's still very open at the bottom of the table but I think we have enough to stay up. We are in good form.' The point will not damage Sunderland's hopes either - but three would have been priceless, albeit hardly deserved. Manager Ricky Sbragia learned to his cost that there is no such thing as safety in numbers as his massed defensive ranks were eventually breached. No doubt the fledgling manager's brief is to keep his team in the Premier League, but if he aims to do it this way then pity their poor fans. For those who were looking for a performance of culture and entertainment, Kieran Richardson's third-minute goal was probably the worst thing that could have happened. The midfielder produced a gem. He pounced on the ball when it ran loose from a Steed Malbranque challenge on Ledley King, left despairing Jonathan Woodgate in his wake and neatly chipped Heurelho Gomes. After that early breakthrough, though, you could almost sense the home team reaching for the wood and nails to board up their goal. Sunderland did have their rare moments in attack. Gomes dropped the ball during one moment of pressure but recovered, while Djibril Cisse twice went close. Sunderland's chances, however, were few and far between compared to the opposition. It was always going to be a dangerous tactic that Sbragia chose to adopt. With even a watertight defence, defying opponents to breach it can be tricky. One slip, one second of carelessness - or even a moment of Richardson-type artistry - and the game could be up. And nobody could hold up the Sunderland rearguard as an example of total security. Darren Bent should have levelled when Dean Whitehead's terrible miskick left the striker with only Marton Fulop to beat in the 58th minute, but he skied the ball over the bar. Keane was provided with another good chance that he put over a few minutes later. But it was never a hopeless task and Spurs did not need the four minutes of added time to score the vital equaliser as Sunderland failed to clear a corner, Bent swung in a cross and Keane was first to the ball, getting in front of Tal Ben- Haim to crack a right-footer out of Fulop's reach. Sbragia said: 'We got off to a good start but we went on the back foot and let them dictate the game when we should have dictated. It was the same old story. We got careless and we got punished for it. 'Spurs threw caution to the wind but, for some reason, we lost our discipline. 'I'm not going to give the players a rollicking, but to win matches the front two players have to do more - and today they didn't play well. 'We don't have to do anything daft. We just have to keep our shape, and we simply didn't do that.' Sbragia was also critical of former Manchester United midfielder Richardson, whose 10th booking of the season for a foul on Aaron Lennon means he will miss two matches through suspension. 'He lost his head - and it has cost him and us,' added the Sunderland manager.

Source: Daily_Mail


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