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Match Analysis: Hull City 3 Sunderland 0
SUPERB SAVE: Sunderland goalkeeper Oscar Ustari is congratulated by his team-mates after saving a penalty from Hull City’s Sone Aluko in the first half
Full-time: Hull City 3 Sunderland 0
SO much for a return to Wembley then. Seven days after enjoying a glorious afternoon at the Capital One Cup final, Sunderland produced a display more in keeping with the rest of their season as they ensured there will be no return trip to the national stadium in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
For the second weekend in succession, the concession of three second-half goals proved costly. But while the Black Cats were still able to leave London with their heads held high thanks to a spirited display against Manchester City, they departed Hull's KC Stadium a thoroughly bedraggled bunch after a featureless performance that fell apart completely in the final 22 minutes.
Goals from Curtis Davies, David Meyler and Matty Fryatt – each one more farcically conceded than the last – finally ended the Wearsiders' interest in this season's cup competitions.
To 'concentrate on the league' is often an easy alternative for losers, but from a red-and-white perspective, it is now an imperative rather than a cop-out. With 12 league games to cram into the final nine weeks of the season, perhaps the avoidance of another blank Premier League weekend will be a blessing.
If it proves so, it will be the only positive to be gleaned from a wretched afternoon that saw former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce record his third success over the Wearsiders this season. That, and the fact the Black Cats finally kept all 11 men on the field against Hull.
By the end, the visitors might as well have been a man down such was the extent of their implosion and while some will bemoan Gustavo Poyet's decision to make six changes from his League Cup final team, the fact all six additions were full internationals should have mitigated against the kind of sub-standard performance that was eventually produced.
The fact that it didn't underlines the lack of squad depth beneath Poyet's established first team, something that has to be a worry if injuries begin to bite in the final two months of the season. You certainly wouldn't want too much money on the side that was playing yesterday battling their way out of the drop zone.
Sunderland only created two chances all afternoon, both of which fell to January signing Ignacio Scocco. He drilled the first miles over the crossbar and scuffed the second straight at Allan McGregor. Clearly it is far too early to be making definitive statements about his attacking prowess, but this was hardly a performance that screamed out for a regular first-team place.
If anything, however, Steven Fletcher was even worse, and while Poyet's remodelled midfield meant that width, and therefore service, was at a premium throughout, the Scotsman's complete loss of form is a major concern.
Jozy Altidore, who was ill in the build up to yesterday's game and therefore did not travel to Humberside, could yet have a role to play in the run-in, but it increasingly looks as though Fabio Borini will have to spearhead Sunderland's survival bid pretty much on his own.
Ironically, the Italian's introduction yesterday came just a minute before his side conceded the first of the three goals Hull scored in the space of nine decisive minutes.
Prior to that, while Sunderland had lacked cohesion and energy, they had not really looked like falling apart in the manner they eventually did.
Oscar Ustari's 35th-minute penalty save was the key feature of a largely uneventful first half that was otherwise notable for Hull's wholly transparent attempts to unsettle Lee Cattermole.
Meyler, Ahmed Elmohamady and Sone Aluko all flung themselves to the floor after tackles from Sunderland's combative central midfielder, who was predictably booked by referee Craig Pawson for a clip that would almost certainly not have resulted in a similar punishment had it been made by any other player.
There have been plenty of times during Cattermole's career when he has not helped himself. On occasions like this, however, it is hard not to conclude that he has to live by different rules to everyone else on the field, and the effect of his first-half booking was surely apparent in his failure to challenge Meyler as he scored Hull's second goal. Admittedly, however, it was no mitigation for the dreadful back-pass that handed the Tigers their third goal on a plate.
Hull were the more threatening side throughout, although their chances were at a premium before Seb Larsson conceded a penalty by clipping Aluko's legs from under him.
Aluko's side-footed penalty was weak, but Ustari still displayed superb agility to hurl himself to his right to parry. To complete the job, he then scampered from his line to prevent two loitering Hull attackers from getting a follow-up strike.
The Argentinian also got down well to turn Liam Rosenior's long-range strike around the post, but while Hull might well have won a second penalty when John O'Shea appeared to tug back Aluko in the 59th minute, there was little sign of the impending chaos when Sunderland conceded their first goal nine minutes later.
Having conceded an unnecessary free-kick close to the corner flag, O'Shea was beaten again as Davies effortlessly climbed above him to head home Tom Huddlestone's free-kick.
Four minutes later, and the game was effectively over as Cattermole's reluctance to make a potentially red-card earning tackle proved decisive. George Boyd hooked a long ball forward, and Meyler beat Cattermole to the bouncing ball before calmly slotting past Ustari in the area.
Eight days after his altercation with Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, the former Sunderland midfielder celebrated by headbutting the corner flag. This time around, however, there was no controversy.
Having been Sunderland's best player in the first half by a distance, Cattermole's afternoon disintegrated completely with 13 minutes left as his dreadful attempt at a back-pass presented Fryatt with the ball in the area. With no opposition player within ten yards of him, the striker simply swivelled to score.
More salt was rubbed in Sunderland's wounds when Hull duly drew Sheffield United in the semi-finals within ten minutes of the final whistle, but in truth, the Black Cats now have bigger issues to address anyway.
On Saturday, they entertain Crystal Palace in a game that will go a long way towards determining their Premier League fate. Given its importance, you could even describe it as their 'cup final'.
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