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4 February 2012
• Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Referee: M. Atkinson
• Attendance: 27717
The final whistle is blown on a fairly uneventful game. The red card handed to Robert Huth will be the major talking point and could potentially reignite the whole debate once more, but at a snow-swept Britannia, Martin O'Neill's defence holds out once again despite some late Stoke pressure. It was far from classic, you couldn't even call it pretty, but it was an effective performance from the visiting side as their excellent run of form shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon as James McClean's solitary strike sees them settle comfortably in 8th place in the league.
90' + 2'
Delap cracks out the towel in the second minute of injury-time and flings a ball deep into the box, but Sunderland earn themselves a free-kick in the midst of the melee
Just three minutes of added time are given as Crouch nods the ball out for a goal kick from the resulting corner.
Stoke hurling men forward in a last-ditch attempt to get something from the game. Wilson has a speculative effort from way outside the box but it's deflected out for a corner.
You can see why Sunderland have such a good defensive record this season based on this performance. They may over-rely on the likes of Sessegnon and Larsson further forward, but they're resolute at the back and a very tough nut to crack.
Wilson angles in a ball from the left, Shawcross manages to get a flick on it from the edge of the area and Sunderland hoof it clear. Similar pattern to every attack now with both sides lacking a degree of guile.
Ahmed El Mohamady
It's been a game of very few clear cut chances so far, with both sides struggling to get hold of the ball.
Ricardo Fuller gives Mingolet something to think about with a crack from the left hand side on the edge of the area, but it's held by the keeper.
Stoke's tactic of lumping the ball forward to Crouch looks to be working, but they've simply not got anyone close enough in and around the lanky front man for them to cause Sunderland any damage. Limbs akimbo it may be, but if they use it right, it could be a way back into the match.
Sunderland look more like the side with ten men at the moment, as Stoke harry and hustle off the ball, urged on by the vocal home support. Can Martin O'Neill's men hold on? A character-building final ten minutes awaits. I'll say this, you wouldn't have backed them to hold out under Steve Bruce's management, but O'Neill seems to have injected a new-found belief in this side.
Stoke are heaping all the pressure on Sunderland now, launching balls forward from the back at the earliest opportunity. To their credit, Sunderland are coping reasonably well with what's come their way so far.
To say that this match has lacked any sort of tempo would be something of an understatement. Sunderland's second-half performance, goal aside, hasn't been up to much.
A truly horrible bobble off Ryan Shawcross sees him knock the ball out for a corner with not a soul within a 25-yard vicinity of him. Just further reminds you that these are really testing conditions. Nothing comes of the resulting corner, though
Great footwork by Ricardo Fuller sees him lay the ball off 40 yards from goal to Whelan, who floats in a diagonal cross that sees Crouch win the header and direct it at goal, but it lacks both the pace and power to truly trouble Mingolet. Brighter stuff from Stoke here, Martin O'Neill may need to make a change here to just stem the onrushing tide
Sunderland look to be wasting time already as the home crowd boos Richardson for taking his time over a throw. There's no rush for the away side, but they'll be worried about the way Stoke have come into it a bit more in the last few minutes, despite the numerical disadvantage.
Walters blazes over a first-time effort from 30 yards out. Row-Z and then some, there.
Delap gets a bit more on a throw-in and Mingolet drops it, but the ball is hacked clear for Sessegnon to chase, but nothing comes of it. Dodgy handling there by the Sunderland man and it offers a glimmer of hope to the freezing fans at The Brittania.
Turner then clumsily hauls down Ricardo Fuller down Sunderland's right hand side. Treading a very fine line the centre-half now, a booking can't be far away.
Stoke win a free-kick as Michael Turner climbs all over Peter Crouch, just like he has done all game. Crouch wins a header from the build-up play of the free-kick, but like a lot of his headers, it lacks direction and rolls harmlessly out of play.
Rory Delap then has a decent crack from the edge of the area after some good hold-up play by Fuller. Not often that you mention Delap doing something with his feet, but that wasn't a bad effort.
Goal James McClean
And it pays dividends almost straight away with a goal from James McClean. A powerful run sees him shrug off Wilkinson and then a tame tackle from Ryan Shawcross leaves the youngster with just Sorensen to beat and he slots past the onrushing keeper. Conditions played a part there, but take nothing away from a great run and calm finish. Game on. Stoke now have a mountain to climb here at home to get back into this.
Assist Stéphane Sessegnon
Goal James McClean
Sunderland look to be trying to get the ball over to McClean and Richardson down the relatively snow-free side of the pitch a bit more.
Stoke make a hash of a decent break from a corner and as Walters lays the ball off to Wilson down the left, with Crouch and Fuller in the box, the delivery is behind both of them and rolls out of play for a goal kick.
Stoke are caught in a bit of a Catch-22 situation now - their main threat comes from long throws and set pieces, but can they afford to commit so many men forward to these now that they're down to ten men? Sunderland are looking dangerous on the break now.
Delap fails to beat the first man with a long throw and Sunderland break in numbers. Larsson's ball is played in behind Gardner, Jack Colback picks it up and plays it to McClean on the edge of the area, who then elects to play in a pass rather than shoot and Stoke survive.
Yellow Card John O'Shea
The whole right hand flank of the pitch is completely covered in snow now and puts paid to a useful run by Gardner. Both sides are getting on at referee Martin Atkinson now as Peter Crouch goes down under minimal contact.
Well, well, well. Ricardo Fuller busts a lung to beat Gardner to the ball and catches the former Brum man. Arguably, that one looked a lot worse than the Robert Huth challenge but Fuller escapes unpunished. Inconsistency from the same official within the same game. Tough job, though it may be, but that's the reason they come under such flak.
Larsson goes down clutching his head after an elbow from Glen Whelan, I tell you what, I've seen those given as red cards before too. No intent at all, mind you, eyes firmly fixed on the ball, but still walking a tight line. Would Pulis have exploded had that been given? Maybe, just maybe.
This half looks bound to be livelier already, with McClean curling in a left-footed cross from the right hand flank only to see Sessegnon head over the bar unmarked after a smart burst into the box.
Second-half gets under way with Atkinson blowing his whistle to a chorus of boos by the home support in reference to the highly contestable Huth decision.
The debate over how you define a red card looks set to rumble on once again. It looked very clumsy from Huth, but both feet didn't look to be off the ground, although it can equally be said that he wasn't in full control of the attempted tackle. He didn't really make that much contact, but is that even really the point anymore? When I've got my doctorate in dodgy tackles, I'll let you know and get back to you.
In a half of little or no action worthy of note, with both sides stuggling to keep hold of the ball and get any sort of momentum going, Robert Huth is sent off for a lunging tackle with just seconds left until half-time. He didn't catch the player, and it didn't look like he set out to hurt him either, but in today's climate, you're just asking for the ref to hand you your marching orders there and Pulis heads off down the tunnel absolutely fuming at the decision.
Red Card Robert Huth
Robert Huth shown a straight red card by referee Martin Atkinson as the German defender goes hurtling into David Meyler. He doesn't catch the player, and his eyes are firmly on the ball. It's clumsy but a very harsh decision nontheless. The pressure is on Sunderland now to make that extra man count.
Wilkinson vs McClean looks like a battle worth keeping an eye on, though. The young Sunderland man not afraid to stick his boot in whenever he needs to.
Walters has a crack from all of 35 yards and the ball just about reaches Mingolet, who looks like he'd been waiting for that effort for a year or two sprawled across a chez lounge with a glass of merlot in tow. Easy peasy.
The free-kick and corner are both then wasted. The standard of delivery today has been exceptionally poor, especially when you consider that it's essentially Stoke vs Seb Larsson out there at there.
Robert Huth barges over Larsson in a dangerous position with the ball near the corner flag on the right hand side of the pitch. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of Huth, even with that deeply suspect tash of his.
Sunderland working the ball across midfield with a series of sideways passes that'd make Ray Wilkins blush, but Stoke cut the ball out for a throw-in.
Jerome is getting some treatment from the physio, not that you'd miss him on the pitch at all at the moment. Football tennis from both sides.
Walters takes on three Sunderland players, drags the ball back and lays it off to Wilson down the left hand flank. His ball is then floated in and Mingolet punches the ball clear and in the process, Jerome flush in the face. Ouch.
An offside rescues Thomas Sorensen as he races out to meet a through ball but makes a hash and skies his clearance in no-mans land, with Sessegnon lurking.
The ball breaks to Sessegnon on the edge of the box after a driving run from Craig Gardner, but he drags his shot fractionally wide of Sorensen's right hand post. That's the game's best chance so far, which says it all, really.
McClean forces a corner after some good work down the left hand side by Richardson. Seb Larsson with the ball at his feet, is he the best set-piece taker in the league now?
Game beginning to open up just that little bit more and Wilkinson and Pennant are seeing plenty of the ball down the right, with Pulis urging the former Liverpool man to hug the touchline a tad more
Sessegnon is a real firecracker of a player as his darting run down the left hand flank sees him cut in well and unleash a drive at goal, only for it to be blocked by Huth
This game so far has definitely been one for the, shall we call them, purists.
Stoke's 12th man is getting his first taste of action this game - Rory Delap's hand towel, but nothing comes of it as Michael Turner heads it away.
Sunderland comfortably knocking the ball about at the back until John O'Shea knocks a hopeless hoof up front and ruins any good work that had been done.
Sunderland haven't been in the Stoke half much so far, but when they have been, the away side look comfortable in possession and full of movement. Threat.
Pennant's delivery is again found wanting and Sunderland clear the ball without any hassle
Jonathan Walters working his socks off up top for Stoke and he forces another corner after knocking it against Phil Bardsley
After an elaborate corner routine straight from the training ground, Whelan lofts a threatening ball into the box for Mingolet to collect with ease.
Richardson knocks out a Pennant free kick from deep out for a corner.
The tempo from both sides is non-existent at the moment and the conditions are definitely playing their part it has to be said.
Stoke working very hard to close down the space in midfield when they don't have the ball.
Simon Mingolet looks like a cross between Zorro and The Elephant Man today with that mask on his injured mush. Fetching.
Sunderland exerting some pressure in Stoke's half with a series of throw-ins. That's as good as it's got so far I'm afraid.
Peter Crouch may have a big role today, he's been in decent form of late and his aerial presence is often underestimated - which is a strange thing to say of a man who stands at 6ft 7.
Nothing comes of it as Shotton finds a Sunderland defender when the ball is cleared out.
With Stoke launching a long ball to Cameron Jerome which comes to nothing and Mingolet doing the exact same from the resulting goal kick, I'd be amazed to see the amount of time the ball spends in the air today stat-wise.
Both sides just feeling eachother out at the moment. The middle of the park looks more fit for Torvill and Dean, though than Delap and Whelan.
Line-ups : Stoke: Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Pennant, Whelan, Delap, Walters, Jerome, Crouch. Subs: Begovic, Jones, Fuller, Diao, Whitehead, Shotton, Woodgate Sunderland: Mignolet, Bardsley, O'Shea, Turner, Richardson, Larsson, Gardner, Meyler, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon. Subs: Westwood, Bridge, Campbell, Wickham, Ji, Kyrgiakos, Elmohamady
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Goal.com's live commentary of Stoke vs Sunderland. Looks to be a big game for both sides today, Sunderland are the form team of the top flight of the moment, while Stoke are trying to turn around a run that has seen them go without a win in three. Can Tony Pulis's boys stop the Martin O'Neill juggernaut today? Let's find out.
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