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Match analysis: West Ham United 0 Sunderland 0
Full-time: West Ham United 0 Subnderland 0
IF SUNDERLAND'S travails in 2013/14 are ever released as a DVD, the chances of which are at present slim, it would probably carry the name Own Goals And Gaffes.
The sight of Phil Bardsley, John O'Shea and Carlos Cuellar all slicing the ball into their own nets; or two players receiving red cards within the space of two minutes, would make happy viewing for most but Sunderland supporters would rather not see them again, hoping the catastrophes that have littered this season would be hidden away, like a snuff movie or a horror film long banned by censors.
Whenever Sunderland seem to make progress on this front – like picking up a point at Villa Park with 11 men on the pitch without any incidents of note – they take a couple of steps back, Phil Bardsley knocks another one into the wrong goal, or O'Shea joins in the fun.
So maybe it is prudent to treat Sunderland's 0-0 draw with West Ham United with caution. Yes, they were excellent in spells. Yes, they were defensively disciplined, though rarely under much pressure. And yes, they looked like a team that were plying their trade at a loftier part of the Premier League than the basement spot they currently occupy.
But this season has proved that for every sign of progress, a disaster ensues. That the light at the end of the tunnel turns out merely to be another train.
Vito Mannone, who, for much of the season, has been hauling the ball out of his own net having seen one of his own defenders inexplicably connect with a cross, had a quiet game in comparison on Saturday, and is set to continue his run of games this week when Chelsea return to the Stadium of Light for the Capital One Cup quarter-final.
Both Mannone and Gus Poyet are not fans of the word 'luck' – but it is safe to say that fortune has not been on their club's side this year.
Had Bardsley's first-half effort just dipped a centimetre under the crossbar rather than smacking into it square on, it might have been a different story. That said, had Andre Marriner decided that Guy Demel did not push Fabio Borini on his way to a first-half disallowed goal, West Ham would be saying much the same.
“I'm pretty confident,” said Mannone when asked about his side's goal drought on the road – their last, and only away goal came at Southampton in August. “We had 19 shots, if it was five or six that's different. Nineteen! If Phil Bardsley's shot had hit the crossbar and gone in we would be here talking about three points.
“It's a bit unlucky but we had chances and we need to take them. I don't believe in luck but we need to try and find this lucky goal to try and win games.
“We've been really unlucky. It's probably been one of the best performances so far. We looked solid at the back and we created chances - the fact we had 19 shots tells you something. Their keeper made a couple of decent saves and the crossbar didn't help us.
“We were a bit unlucky but that's the way to play games. We have to do it week in, week out.”
Aside from West Ham's possibly credible claims for a goal, and Bardsley's dalliance with the woodwork, Jozy Altidore had a decent chance to add to his goal tally for the season when he was played in by Ki Sung-Yueng, only to see his low shot tipped around the post by Hammers keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Late in the half, Emanuele Giaccherini and Borini both had efforts blocked by Demel, while Lee Cattermole, who was making his first start since being dismissed at Hull City – by Marriner – had a fine chance to take the lead but his goalbound shot from 25 yards was pushed away by Jaaskelainen on the stroke of half-time.
Sunderland had a decent opportunity after the restart when slick interplay found Altidore on the edge of the box, but his effort was deflected – again by Demel – out for a corner.
Sunderland dominated the second half, but could not find the cutting edge going forward, with a Ki shot on 79 minutes representing the visitors' best chance of the 45 minutes.
West Ham went close in the dying seconds when George McCartney's cross almost dropped into the net but for Mannone's intervention, while James Collins headed wide from the resultant corner.
Mannone felt that it was two points dropped as opposed to one point gained. “We came here to win the game and you could tell that,” said the former Arsenal stopper.
“If it was one team of the two who deserved to win I think it was us.
“It's a positive point but nothing has been decided. I've said for the past few weeks we need to keep going in every game and see where we are in January.
“Now we've got another difficult game at home (Norwich next in the league) but if we get the three points people will look back and say this was a good point.
“I think if we can play like we did at West Ham we're going to start winning games away from home.”
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