Writer: Michael Briggs
Date:Monday October 18 2010
Tonight wasn`t the night in the eyes of Sunderland and its travelling fans as they were held to a 0-0 draw away to Blackburn Rovers tonight.
The sending off of Christopher Samba in the first half should have signal for an onslaught from the Black Cats but it just did not happen.
Chances from the returning Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan could and maybe should have given the away side all three points but neither could convert.
Attention was also on Under 21 star Jordan Henderson, after his highly impressive week rumours were kicking around about his future, but for now he had to show he can deliver on what was a damp game.
In the opening minutes Sunderland look to have continued where they left off before the international break, quick passing and on the deck.
But funnily enough the first real chance fell to Morten Gamst Pedersen, whose dangerously whipped free kick almost caught out Simon Mignolet, but luckily enough the young Belgian managed to tip it over the bar.
Not long after the chance of the game arrived and it fell to Bent, who managed to go one on one with Paul Robinson, after a slip by Gael Givet only for his shot to be smothered away from 15-yards.
Then towards the end of the first half came, what should have been, the turning point in the game, when Samba pulled down Danny Welbeck outside the area.
Referee Lee Probert, having consulted his linesman, correctly applied the letter of the law in dismissing the giant Samba, and was also right to award a free-kick on the edge of the area where the first contact was made, but Blackburn suffered no further loss as the resulting set piece was blocked by the wall and Bent dragged an effort resulting from the loose ball a yard wide.
In the second half it was clear to see that Bent lacked that sharpness upfront, when he powered his head well wide of the target from an inviting cross from Ahmed Elmohamady.
Time wore on and Sunderland began to look nervous, Titus Bramble clearing a fumble from Mignolet, it looked like a draw would be inevitable.
Bent then reacted well to a loose ball in the box but Robinson was equal to it and timed his challenge well but it fell to Steed Malbranque whose lobbed shot just couldn`t quite find the net.
Cue the arrival of Gyan to try add more attacking options for Sunderland half way through the second half.
Blackburn did have a decent near the end when substitute and former Sunderland player Benjani found space but his snap shot sliced miles away from the target.
As the game continued to fluctuate Robinson needed to be at full stretch to keep out a fine 20-yard curling effort from Gyan, while substitute Boudewijn Zenden fizzed a drive narrowly wide and Bent should have given the goalkeeper more of a test from only six yards out as Sunderland finished strongly.
Regardless of the score manager Steve Bruce gave credit to both sides defensive display but warned his side on relying on Darren Bent.
He told Safc.com, "I have to give credit to Blackburn. They were defensively organised and very difficult to break down.
"But we've created enough chances and opportunities; we could even argue we could have created more, that's our Achilles heel, and we can't keep relying on Benty.
"But we haven't been beaten away from home since West Brom and there's some good signs there.
"I was very, very pleased with a lot of it. The two centre-backs were determined to make sure that ball wasn't going in our net which was a big plus for us.
"We needed to probe better and unfortunately we didn't.
"I was delighted with the attitude; I couldn't fault that. We are six unbeaten in the league now and we need to continue to produce more of what we're showing.
"When the opposition are down to ten men they get eight, nine players behind the ball and we all know how difficult it is.
"We had two or three really good opportunities and on another day we could have won."
Date:Monday October 18 2010
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