Monday 19 February 2018

Kirchhoff endures debut to forget for Sunderland

Tottenham 4 Sunderland 1

Sunderland's Duncan Watmore in action against Tottenham's Eric Dier. Photo: Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs.
Sunderland's Duncan Watmore in action against Tottenham's Eric Dier. Photo: Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs.
Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane and Sunderland's John O'Shea (right) battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce. Photo: Action Images via Reuters / Paul Childs.

Jim White

If he were sensible, Jan Kirchhoff will not have typed his name into Google the morning after his debut for Sunderland.

A £3m buy from Bayern Munich, the defender was signed by Sam Allardyce with the intention of bringing some Teutonic organisational heft to the Premier League strugglers' back line.

Instead he endured a debut riddled with errors, culminating in the gift of a penalty to Tottenham.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was reported to be feeling unwell afterwards, though the bookmaker Paddy Power tweeted that he was otherwise engaged looking for the receipt of the Kirchhoff deal so that he could affect a refund.

However lonely Jermain Defoe must have felt on his return to White Hart Lane, for most of the first half the visitors' plan worked to perfection. Spurs' midfield could find no way through the lime green wall and it was Sunderland who went ahead when Adam Johnson's ball was dispatched by Patrick Van Aanholt.

But the lead lasted no more than a minute. Spurs responded in kind, with a lightening quick piece of inter-change and, after Harry Kane's effort was parried by Jordan Pickford, Christian Eriksen fired the ball towards the net.

At this point Lee Cattermole had ran back to cover his goal line. Perfectly positioned to parry Eriksen's shot, instead he somehow contrived to let the ball roll up his shin, then kneed it over his own head into the net.

Early in the second half, Allardyce moved to protect the one point. Danny Graham was withdrawn and Kirchhoff sent on to create a five-man back line.

Tall and gangly, a sort of cut-price Per Mertesacker, the German was immediately exposed by the pace and trickery of Tottenham's passing.

Spurs took immediate advantage of the creeping nervousness infecting the visitors.

First the dominant Mousa Dembele squeezed a shot inside Pickford's near post and then Eriksen fired in a third, deflected off who else but Kirchhoff.

The German's dreadful afternoon then went from bad to worse when he scythed down Danny Rose to give away a penalty, the award of which not even Sam Allardyce complained about. Kane buried it with aplomb.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was anxious to quell any over-ambitious talk. "It is too early to start speaking of the title," he said. "We must learn and improve."

The learning process continues with the third leg of their mid-season marathon against Leicester in the FA Cup midweek. Kirchhoff, meanwhile, can at least think that things can only get better.

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