Monday 19 March 2018

Zenden tries to roll with punches in Black Cats' barren run

Damian Spellman

Sunderland midfielder Bolo Zenden says Sunderland's dismal winless run is making him feel like a boxer being battered on the ropes.

The 33-year-old Dutchman and his team-mates came within seconds of ending their barren league run at the 12th attempt at Portsmouth on Tuesday, only to be caught by a sucker punch at the death.

They had to settle for a point -- just their sixth from the last 36 on offer -- and have now won only twice in 18 league outings since they beat Wolves 5-2 on September 27.

Zenden said: "Any team gets a difficult spell and a period where things are not going their way, although ours is longer than I'm used to. We are not getting results and all we can do is work hard.

"The fans were great with us again last night and came down in great numbers. They have seen a team which has worked and tried. It's very hard to take.

"We desperately want to give the fans something back because they deserve that.

"At the minute, it's like we are standing in the corner receiving all the punches, and we have to work hard to get out of it."

On a dramatic night at Fratton Park, Pompey's off-field problems were compounded by fresh difficulties on the pitch when Ricardo Rocha was eventually sent off for a trip on Darren Bent after referee Kevin Friend initially dismissed Hassan Yebda.


Bent duly dispatched the resulting 12th-minute spot-kick to give the Black Cats hope of a first Premier League away win since the opening day of the season.

However, the visitors were dealt a series of blows -- midfielder Steed Malbranque was rushed to hospital afterwards complaining of chest pains, although he was allowed to fly home yesterday, and Lee Cattermole and then substitute David Meyler were sent off.

They had managed to scrap their way to the sixth minute of stoppage time at the end of the game when Aruna Dindane headed home Jamie O'Hara's back-post cross to snatch a point.

Zenden said: "Of course we are very disappointed. We worked very hard. The two red cards gave Portsmouth the wings they needed to get a result. We had the chances to score a second goal, which would have made a big difference. We tried hard, but playing with nine at the end is not easy.

"It feels like a defeat at this moment. We haven't lost, but we should have got the points. It's been a long run (without a win) now."

Life will get no easier for Steve Bruce's men: their next game is away to Arsenal -- the last side they beat in the league -- with Cattermole and Meyler suspended.

They then entertain Fulham on February 28.

Irish Independent

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