Sunday 19 January 2020

Allardyce in his element as Sunderland grab a lifeline

Norwich City 0 Sunderland 3

Sunderland's Patrick van Aanholt holds off Norwich's Nathan Redmond. Photo: Alan Walter/Reuters
Sunderland's Patrick van Aanholt holds off Norwich's Nathan Redmond. Photo: Alan Walter/Reuters
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce is spoken to by referee Andre Marriner during the match against Norwich City. Photo: Alan Walter/Reuters
Jermain Defoe scores the second goal for Sunderland during their Premier League clash against Norwich City at Carrow Road. Photo: Alan Walter/Reuters
Sunderland's Duncan Watmore is challenged by Norwich's Youssouf Mulumbu druing the match at Carrow Road. Photo: Alan Walter/Reuters

Jonathan Liew

No manager enjoys talking about his own victories as much as Sam Allardyce.

In the aftermath of a big win - and there can have been few bigger than this - he leaves no detail untouched in explaining exactly how he pulled it off. And after this leviathan of a triumph we were treated to it yet again.

"We handled the pressure better than them," the Sunderland manager said after a victory that blew the relegation battle wide open.

"It was scrappy at times, but sometimes you have to dig it out: the back four, the goalkeeper, the finishing and the counter-attacking style we used today to great effect. Standing up to the long balls into the box.

"We used the ball extremely well, so the counter-attacking football paid off in the end and it's a massive result for us."

And that was the edited-down version. Yet, who could blame him? This was a game that could have sealed Sunderland's fate - and his own.

From the moment he got into a touchline scrap with the Norwich bench in the third minute, nobody could doubt how pumped he was.


A win for Norwich would have left Sunderland seven points adrift of their East Anglian rivals; instead they are now one point from safety with a game in hand. "It's the biggest performance and win of the season for us," added Allardyce.

Alex Neil disputed Allardyce's suggestion that Norwich had failed to handle the pressure of the occasion.

"I think that's a lot of rubbish," he said. "They got a penalty against the run of play, then a breakaway goal, arguably after a free-kick. We had 14 corners, they had zero. We were dominant. If he deems that to be handling the pressure better I don't agree."

This was a masterclass of an away performance from Sunderland, but one that does not in itself point to their survival.

Against superior opponents they will need to show more quality. They will not get as much space nor as many opportunities to counter-attack against, say, Arsenal next Sunday. But we did learn that Sunderland have heart in abundance.

In each of the last three seasons, Sunderland have managed to escape from the seemingly irresistible clutches of Championship football.

Norwich have the opposite predicament. Of the 14 players they used on Saturday, 11 have been relegated before. This is a squad fighting not just Sunderland and Newcastle, but its own haunting memories.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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