Friday 28 July 2017

Moyes sent to stand in latest night of misery for Sunderland

Southampton 1 Sunderland 0

Sunderland manager David Moyes is sent to the stands by referee Chris Kavanagh during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Sunderland manager David Moyes is sent to the stands by referee Chris Kavanagh during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Jonathan Liew

A single moment of brilliance decided this game: the goal by Sofiane Boufal that put Southampton into the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup and a trip to face Arsenal. It brought the crowd to its feet and Sunderland to their knees. And as David Moyes's side suffered another soul-crushing defeat, they might reflect that it is the sort of moment of which they seem wholly capable at present.

Sunderland, like all Moyes teams, ran hard and challenged hard. If anything, that only made defeat all the more demoralising, along with the knowledge that Southampton had rested nine first-team players.

Southampton's Sofiane Boufal scores their first goal. Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge
Southampton's Sofiane Boufal scores their first goal. Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge

Often you will hear it said of winning teams that they simply wanted it more. Well, here Sunderland won their battles. They executed their plans. Moyes blew so many gaskets he ended up getting sent off. Sunderland wanted it more. And they still lost. There is still a lot of tunnel remaining, but precious little sign of any light at the end of it.

For all that, it was a strangely low-key sort of game that steadfastly refused to get out of second gear, played out against the backdrop of the deserted Kingsland Stand all along one side of the pitch. At times, the only noise being generated was by Moyes on the touchline, wearing his now-familiar half-angry-half-scared expression: eyes bulging, arms waving, like an anxious Porsche owner shooing trick-or-treaters away from his Boxster.

For the home side, all eyes were on Moroccan Boufal, making his first start since joining from Lille for a club-record £21m and there was a genuine intake of breath at how he broke the deadlock.

The ball had been headed clear, seemingly to safety, but Jose Fonte's high and hopeful Garryowen landed perfectly at the feet of Boufal in the left channel. He shuffled inside Billy Jones and curled the ball irresistibly past Jordan Pickford from 20 yards.

Sofiane Boufal celebrates scoring with teammates. Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge
Sofiane Boufal celebrates scoring with teammates. Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge

On the touchline, Moyes widened his eyes still further, if such a thing were possible.

Jermain Defoe, who Moyes might have hoped to save for the game against Arsenal this weekend, was summoned from the bench to accompany the largely ornamental Victor Anichebe. Within minutes, he had a left-footed shot saved by Alex McCarthy, chased down half a dozen lost causes, given Sunderland more simple hope than Anichebe had given them all night. As the 90 minutes ticked over, Moyes's incessant chirping at the fourth official earned him a dismissal to the stands, to the second-loudest cheer of the night.

Still, it was all for naught in the end. As the full-time whistle blew with a dull inevitability, Sunderland's fans were left to rue another nearly-but-not-quite sort of night. Of their eight defeats, six have been by a single goal, which you can interpret either as an encouraging competitiveness or a worrying lack of resolve.

Those fans will always choose hope. There were 1,500 of them there, which when you think about it is pretty remarkable. A seven-hour bus journey from Sunderland. Just as long back. On a Wednesday. For a League Cup game. The club's fanzine is called A Love Supreme, which sounds about right. Thing is, on nights like this it begins to feel like a love unrequited.

Sunderland's Paddy McNair closes down Southampton's Jack Stephens. Reuters / Hannah McKay
Sunderland's Paddy McNair closes down Southampton's Jack Stephens. Reuters / Hannah McKay

EFL Cup Quarter-final draw

Liverpool v Leeds Utd

Manchester Utd v West Ham Utd

Hull City v Newcastle Utd

Arsenal v Southampton

Sunderland's Billy Jones (right) looks dejected after the final whistle. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire
Sunderland's Billy Jones (right) looks dejected after the final whistle. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

(Ties to be played November 29-30)

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