Dyer and Swansea miss out on a winning trip north
Sunderland 0 Swansea 0:No goals, some wonderfully cohesive passing from a Swansea City side who somehow kept failing to finish what they started and a reality check for Sunderland. Despite a mild second-half revival Martin O’Neill’s recently renascent players trudged off well aware that they owed their point to a late, glaring, miss on Nathan Dyers part.
There is something intensely therapeutic about watching the gorgeous geometry of those prolonged passing sequences Swansea specialise in. Two early bouts of visiting pass and move resulted in Dyer curling one shot wide, Michu directing another over the bar and Simon Mignolet diving sharply to save smartly from Chico Flores at his near post. Sunderland’s goalkeeper then made a somewhat easier stop when Dyer elected to try and place a shot he perhaps should have blasted.
All the while his team-mates were trying to interrupt the revolving interplay which saw Michu, Dyer and the Israeli international Itay Shechter rotate attacking positions with bewildering rapidity.
Those Swansea fans who did trek north east must have wondered if this would be their final glimpse of Danny Graham wearing white. The Swansea striker, the subject of a €7m bid from ONeill, was named as a substitute here but is expected to be a Sunderland player by the end of the week.
Michael Laudrups side must have cursed their failure to finish incisively during an opening half in which Sunderlands most menacing moment probably came when Sebastian Larsson saw his free-kick defended adroitly .
After four wins in their previous six Premier League games, better had been expected from ONeills latterly much improved side. Instead the free-kick Craig Gardner sent arcing high into the stand behind Gerhard Tremmels goal seemed emblematic of the night’s regression to dead ball dependence and sporadic counterattacking.
On a rare occasion when Stephane Sessegnon and Steven Fletcher linked up cleverly to defence-bisecting effect, Adam Johnson ruined their deft approach work by straying needlessly offside.
If Wearsiders were relieved to see Michu’s left-foot, 20-yard shot deflected away for a corner, the alarming lack of chances created by Sunderland during the opening hour was starting to cause consternation among Stadium of Light regulars.
Admittedly Sunderland improved a little in the second half. It took a fine interception from Flores to halt Sessegnon in his tracks after the Benin international advanced with menace.
But it newly arrived substitute, Swanseas Roland Lamah who came closest to breaking the deadlock. Almost immediately Graham replaced Britton prompting a chorus of boos from locals possibly well aware of his boyhood allegiance to Newcastle United.
When Michu created a glorious late chance for his co-forward Dyer shot inexplicably wide with the goal at his mercy leaving Laudrup and virtually every visiting player in head in hands mode.
SUNDERLAND:Mignolet, Gardner, Bramble, OShea, Colback, Johnson (Wickham 83 mins), NDiaye (McClean 66 mins), Vaughan, Larsson, Sessegnon, Fletcher. Subs not used: Westwood, Bardsley, Kilgallon, Mangane, Elmohamady. Booked: McClean. SWANSEA: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Williams, Chico, Davies, Dyer, de Guzman, Britton (Graham 74 mins), Hernandez (Lamah 66mins), Shechter (Ki 60 mins), Michu. Subs not used: Cornell, Bartley, Routledge, Rangel. Booked: Tiendalli, Britton Referee: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).