Who would have thought that a red card and two set pieces would cost Sunderland victory in their first game of the season? Lee Cattermole picked up two unnecessary yellow cards once again, leaving his team mates to battle on without their captain for 60 minutes of the game.
As Steve Bruce continues his criticism of match officials, the glaring weaknesses of his Sunderland squad continue on from last season. With the departure of Lorik Cana, Sunderland fans were hoping to see a decrease in the high disciplinary record of last season. Cattermole quashed all hopes with two reckless fouls. Though both yellow cards could fall under some scrutiny, both fouls were undoubtedly inappropriate and displayed a certain immaturity that will be displeasing to the home crowd. Bruce blamed referee Anthony Taylor’s lack of experience at the top level for his poor performance:
“The ref has been fast-tracked, it was only his second or third game and he was out of his depth.”
“I could understand Lee’s second yellow card, but I was angry about the first. He didn’t kick the ball away.”
Birmingham should feel hard done by themselves, as Darren Bent’s penalty conversion shouldn’t have been as replays showed Stephen Carr take down Frazier Campbell outside of the 18 yard box. Bent fired home on the 24th minute with a spot kick, and the home side continued to cruise the first half.
With 10 men, Sunderland still looked the better side increasing their lead in the 55th minutes as ex-Newcastle player Stephen Carr scored an own goal, heading over Ben Foster.
The extra man proved too much for the Black Cats as Birmingham’s continuous onslaught wore down the opposition. Mensah was once again the Sunderland defence, dealing with everything that came the Ghanian’s way. Onouha also impressed on his debut at right back. Bramble’s only lapse in the 90 minutes provided Alex McLeish’s side with a corner from which Scott Dann scored, lamely putting it through Mignolet’s legs.
Birmingham’s substitutions proved more effective than Sunderland’s as Zigic provided a troublesome presence in the opposition’s box, helped by the quality crosses from Sebastian Larsson.
The Blues got their equaliser with two minutes to go through Liam Ridgewell. Too many times did Steve Bruce’s side miss out on three points by conceding in the final minutes last season. This trend will continue if his team fail to act on their failure to stamp out poor discipline and Steve Bruce certainly needs experiences cover for goalkeeper Craig Gordon. Simon Mignolet won’t be judged to harshly on his Premier League debut, but it is evident that the player is not yet up to the standard asked of him. Sunderland will be disappointed at the way their team lost the lead, but Birmingham will be happy with an away point gained.
22. Mignolet – 5
03. Richardson – 6
05. Mensah – 8 (Man of the match)
15. Onouha – 7
19. Bramble – 6
06. Cattermole – 4
08. Malbranque – 6 (16. Riveros – 5)
10. Henderson 6
27. Al-Muhammadi 6 (26. Waghorn – 5)
09. Campbell – 7
11. Bent – 7 (17.Welbeck – 5)
26. Foster – 6
02. Carr – 4 (08. Gardner – 5)
05. Johnson – 6
06. Ridgewell – 7
15. Dann – 7
04. Bowyer – 5
07. Larsson – 8
12. Ferguson – 6
18. Fahey – 5 (McFadden 46 – 6)
10. Jerome – 6
11. O’Connor – 5 (19. Zigic – 6)
Anthony Taylor – 4
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