Dan Neil says the Sunderland problem that needs urgent solution

Sunderland were held scoreless by ten-man Despite the Black Cats’ near-total dominance, Swansea City
Sunderland’s inability to defeat ten-man Swansea City was a continuation of a theme, according to Dan Neil. The Black Cats had a man advantage against the Swans for an hour and a half after on-loan Arsenal midfielder Charlie Patino was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Despite having near-total dominance and creating enough chances to win three games, Sunderland were unable to capitalize on their numerical advantage and were held to a goalless draw at the Liberty Stadium. “It was very frustrating,” Neil said after seeing a shot cleared off the line by Harry Darling while the score was still 11-vs-11.

“I feel like there have been a lot of times when I’ve played for Sunderland when teams have been reduced to ten men and we’ve just struggled to break them down.” I thought we dominated in and out of possession for the first 30 minutes [before the sending-off].

“Our press was fantastic, they couldn’t really get out of their half. We were forcing errors and cutting through them as well.

“I had a really good chance around the penalty spot and just didn’t get a clean connection on it. Last year we got beaten 2-1 there and it was an alright performance in the second half.

“We came away taking the positives, yet we’re not taking many positives from this because we wanted the three points. It just shows how far this team has come because when we come to places like this we expect to take three points.”

Swansea fans were displeased with the decision to send off Patino for two fouls on Pierre Ekwah, each of which resulted in a booking, as well as a series of calls made by referee Bobby Madley.


Pierre Ekwah will be a force to be reckoned with in Sunderland's midfield  this season - Roker Report


With that sense of injustice, and Swansea’s determination to keep their clean sheet with ten men, Sunderland’s task became even more difficult.


“Yeah, when the stadium gets going, it’s quite a loud atmosphere,” Neil said. I’m not sure how to explain it, but when you’re down to ten men, you almost grow together as a unit again because it was 0-0 and you had something to hold on to.

“It would be different if they were 1-0 down and went down to ten men as shoulders could go down. They had something to hold onto and almost grew as a unit and put bodies on the line and blocked good chances.

“Dacky [Bradley Dack] had one at the end which was blocked and that’s what happens when you play against 10 men and we need to address how to break that down. At 11 vs 11 before the sending off we were really good.”

Sunderland were grateful to goalkeeper Anthony Patterson for saving a penalty from Jamal Lowe when Swansea could have taken an undeserved lead in first-half injury time after Luke O’Nien was penalized for tripping Liam Cullen at a corner. “We were dominant and would have been very hard done by if they had scored that pen,” Neil said.

“Once Patto saved that pen we need to find a way to break teams down and put the ball in the back of the back of the net and we just couldn’t do that.”


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