The magic romance ends, Sunderland away, FA CupAlong with all the other clichéd knackers of this once magnificent competition.
Never been to the new ground for one reason or another, just never panned out. I remember a couple of boxing day games I didn't fancy but not sure why I've missed the others. Maybe the memory of two harrowing trips to the old ground on the WAs had something to do with it.
MDM and me set off about half nine for the drive up north and after a tricky free parking expedition we were high up in the corner in the stadium of sharp winter light along with 5000 other Leeds fans. These were the quietest Sunderland fans I've ever heard anywhere. If it wasn't for the away support the stadium would have been silent. Perusing the program was an eye opener as well as we read the premier away support numbers. Man city a meager 1600 and a pathetic 300 from Stoke. Only a couple of clubs selling their allocation. Is this what the prem is all about?
Quite a changed line up for the whites with our young trio, let's just say rested and a spirit sapping start for Murphy. Charley at left back Bernardi at rb with Sloth in front of him. The undropable, may untouchable Antenucci partnered up front with Montenegro and Adryan behind them.
Immediately Sunderland attacked our right back area with their left back acting more like a winger as they cut us open through that area several times. We were on the back for all of that first period.
On the positive side we kept our shape. The two center halves did well and tried to bring it out of defence with control. Austin was quite good actually, strong on the ball and gave decent short passes. Murphy on the other hand was abject shite. To be fair to the lad he was too deep for his natural game but he was clueless on the ball and didn't look like he wanted it in the first place. Adryan was eager but ran into red shirts with every touch and his passing was nonexistent.
After a few attempts Sunderland got their goal inevitably through our right back position and their dangerous attacking left back. The old Roker roar has become an appreciative applause as the 25000 home fans barely raised themselves off their seats.
We persisted with our unadventurous passing often getting closed down by premier class defending and midfield work rate. Their defenders were too smart to commit fouls on Rudy or Antenucci when they brought the ball forward before running out of steam. Instead the simply dispossessed them as they did adryan when he couldn't distribute. It didn't help that our man on the ball whoever it was had very few options around him. I think our game plan was containment in the first half but it was pretty dispiriting stuff. Austin had a great chance when he took the ball into the box but incredibly chose not to shoot, his indecision saw him robbed and the chance was gone.
We were lucky to be only one nil down at half time. If things didn't change it could have been a real drubbing. Thankfully things did change in the second half.
Immediately from kick off Murphy charged forwards. We had a couple if good chances especially for Adryan who was through on goal and the keeper blocked. The whole team took on an altogether more positive driving tact. Murphy was a different player, picking balls up well, taking it forward and putting good passes together. He definitely favors being in the opposition half. Sloth and Bernardi tightened up and together with our more adventurous attacking nullified their overlaps. Rudy was working even harder and we actually looked the better team, or at least the more likely to score.
Despite a good shout for a penalty for a foul I definitely thought in the box we couldn't finish and that is down to our usual attacking deficiencies. Our crossing is shocking, either floated drops into the box or straight to the keeper or simply cleared away by the first defender. Same with the corners.
Sunderland were content to hit us on the break and Silvestri pulled off a good save but you can tell there is still distrust at the back. Cooper did well handling that and looking after Del Fabro but overall the defence did well. In fact it was a satisfactory second half all round, our fans were in good voice spirit and humour especially when the "lets pretend we've scored a goal" chants came. Some were angry when Adryan went off and Billy came on. Personally i thought he was getting completely ineffective but i would have like Billy to have replaced Antenucci. That don't ever seem likely though.
It would have capped it all off if Cooper's last minute header had gone in off the post rather than away but it was bit to be. So it finished at Sunderland 1 Leeds United 0 in case you haven't heard. Oh well at least we can concentrate on t....... etc etc