More misery for O'Neill as Norwich extend their fine unbeaten run
Norwich City 2 Sunderland 0: Martin O’Neill will not have endured many anniversaries as miserable as this. The Sunderland manager celebrates one year in the job today but there will be no champagne corks popping on Wearside after another disappointing defeat that leaves them hovering above the relegation places.
Speculation regarding his future will only intensify after goals from Sebastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington secured three points for Norwich, despite Sunderland’s second-half dominance.
“We’re not good enough to be able to gift goals to teams and be able to turn that around. Top sides are able to do that but we’re certainly not a top side,” said O’Neill. “We need to win a game. We have to win a couple of matches in relatively quick succession.”
This defeat means Sunderland have recorded just two wins from their last 22 matches. In contrast, Norwich are unbeaten in eight Premier League games – equalling their record set in the 1993-94 season.
Sunderland, who had James McClean starting in place of their injured captain Lee Cattermole, were dreadfully poor in the first half. Adam Johnson’s early effort flew high and wide before Stephane Sessegnon ballooned a 25-yard drive out for a throw.
Norwich, however, looked far more dangerous. Robert Snodgrass’s cross was flicked on by Bradley Johnson and, via a deflection off Carlos Cuellar’s arm, found its way to the far post where Bassong finished from close range.
After 37 minutes Norwich doubled their lead. It was a simple ball forward that cut through the Sunderland defence with baffling ease. Anthony Pilkington latched on to Johnson’s pass from deep and turned Cuellar inside out before finishing decisively into Simon Mignolet’s bottom corner.
Sunderland barely deserved to score but pulled a goal back through Craig Gardner a minute before half-time. Johnson, squirmed between two men before finding Gardner, who swept in expertly from just outside the penalty area.
After the break Norwich found themselves camped in their own half. Kilgallon spurned a glorious chance after firing over an open goal after Gardner’s 30-yard drive was tipped on to a post by Bunn, before Sessegnon’s left-footed effort was again well saved.
Asked if Sunderland were now in a relegation battle, O’Neill said: “Our position in the league would suggest exactly that. It’s a battle for us and we have to pull through.”