Friday 11 November 2022
Blues finished their strength-sapping three games in six days marathon – thanks EFL and Sky – with an unlucky defeat at the hands of Sunderland at St Andrew’s last night.
Sometimes tiredness doesn’t manifest itself obviously in the form of not being able to get around the pitch as much or for as long as usual, sometimes it shows in the discipline and precision of the work on display. Here was a case in point, particularly in the first half.
Blues went into the break a goal down, but if they’d kept the shape better at the back and taken the clear-cut chances up front, when Deeney headed against the bar when he had a lot of spare goal to aim at and Hogan missed a one-on-one after being released by a great ball from his strike partner, the situation going into the second half could easily have been reversed.
The sloppiness shown in the first half tumbled over into the second, as Sunderland grabbed a second from a cracking run and strike from Diallo, but he’d been afforded space to do what he wanted by the left wing-back being badly out of position. The same had happened in the first half for Ellis Simms’ opener when Longelo was again AWOL.
Longelo recovered from his two mistakes to play a big part in Blues’ second-half fightback.
In that, ultimately, unsuccessful comeback, the missing energy of the first half was provided by the subs, Chong, Jukey and Hall, surprisingly overlooked for Jobe Bellingham’s first start.
Jukey grabbed his first for a year, from a Longelo cross, with a quarter of an hour to go to raise hopes that Blues, as they had done against Swansea, could grab the point which had seemed highly unlikely at half-time.
With the introduction of Jukey, Eustace once again deployed the powerplay tactic with the three central forwards on the pitch at the same time. Although it didn’t come off this time, it still showed that Jukey, following his shift at Stoke, still has a positive part to play.
We probably should have had a penalty after Jukey’s goal when a Sunderland defender decided to hold hands with the lively Chong as he broke into the box. On the other hand, Sunderland could have got something a bit earlier when Bacuna barged a Sunderland forward in the back.
“the second-half comeback was encouraging in terms of confirming the spirit and character of this side.”
In the last ten minutes, a good save from the Sunderland keeper Patterson and a shot from Sanderson after a corner that Hall could neither get out the way of nor turn into the net, suggested that Blues were unlucky not to have got something from the game.
Nevertheless, the second-half comeback was encouraging in terms of confirming the spirit and character of this side. It’s a strange feeling not to go away from a game where we have lost too disappointed.
We’d all have taken top half, a few points off the play-offs at the start of the season. Hopefully, Eustace and his team won’t be satisfied with that and will not only use the World Cup break for a well-earned rest but to regroup and point the way forward for the second half of the season. Onward and upward.