Thursday 14 December 2017

Meyler under fire as McClean strike earns points


Phil Medlicott

Sunderland's impressive form continued as a strike from James McClean secured them all three points against 10-man Stoke at a wintry Britannia Stadium.

In a contest during which snow fell throughout, a first half of few goalscoring opportunities finished with Potters defender Robert Huth receiving his marching orders in the 45th minute. The German was shown a straight red card after a tackle on David Meyler.

McClean, who is expected to be named in Giovanni Trapattoni's Irish squad for the friendly against the Czech Republic on February 29, then netted in the 60th minute, bursting through the hosts' defence and tucking the ball away to seal victory and confirm his staggering recent rise under Martin O'Neill.

Sunderland have now taken 22 points from the 30 on offer in the Premier League since O'Neill took charge in December.

O'Neill was delighted to see his side keep their momentum going with a fifth victory in six league games -- particularly given that it snowed relentlessly throughout the contest.

"Conditions, certainly in the last 20 minutes, were probably borderline in terms of the game keeping going, although I never for one minute thought the referee was going to stop it," O'Neill said.

"Naturally, I am delighted with them (his players). This would have been a big test for us anyway today, but we hadn't taken the snow into consideration, so I am really pleased that we have won and collected these important points."

Tony Pulis has indicated Stoke will appeal against Huth's sending-off -- and also criticised Corkman Meyler's reaction to the tackle. "I have watched it twice now," he said of Huth's tackle. "Robert has committed himself and then pulled out of the challenge, and he hasn't touched the kid.

"The disappointing thing for me is -- and it has become more ingrained in the game -- is the reaction of the player. It is something I think the PFA should really get to grips with.

"The game is difficult enough for the referees. Then you get situations when players are falling around and rolling around when they have not even been touched.

"We don't want to take challenges out of the game -- we want to be as competitive and fair as we possibly can. But it is creeping into the game, where players I think are going down now with the intention of getting other players booked or even sent off when they have not really been hurt.

"I find that a disease that we should stamp out as quickly as we possibly can."

Referring to the incident, O'Neill said: "I haven't seen it back, but my initial view was that I thought it looked as if it was going to be a red card."

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