Bad Day at the Office

In footballing terms it is always going to be a bad day when you know the opposition goalkeeper is having one of those days – when his Man of the Match performance is not only going to deny your team their rightful victory but prove to be the platform for an away win.

Think back a couple of weeks to Tim Krul of Newcastle and you will know exactly what I mean.

Think back a couple of days and how the saves of our very own Hugo Lloris must have rankled the hearts and minds of Fulham fans. We know how you feel guys.

Lloris was beaten once – he didn´t have a chance with that one – but before and after he had waged a personal battle against our past dearly hated, but once much loved, moody Bulgarian by parrying, smothering and deflecting a number of noteworthy efforts.

Save after excellent save created the platform for us to get back to winning ways in the Premiership.

With us once again getting more players into the box, once more delivering balls into dangerous areas, we should have scored well before we did – Paulinho how did you miss that chance? Laid in by a beautiful run and pass from Defoe you eased past two players, dumped their goalie on his arse and then blazed it high over the bar when a simple chip would have sufficed.

That our two goals came from long range should really not surprise anyone – we have more attempts on goal than any team in the league and most are from distance – but they were both as spectacular as they were different.

How did Chiriches shot miss everyone? I have seen it numerous times and still cannot see how it avoided everyone it passed, including Defoe who, for once, got out of the way rather than trying anything fancy. Maybe, also for once, he realised he was offside and a touch would rule the goal out?

And then Holtby, trying to impress us after his abject failure to do so against Citeh, drifted inside to unleash a magnificent shot that left everyone dumbfounded.

If the starting line up was a little weird – whoever thought playing the Beast alongside the Tank would ever work but it did – the substitutions were even weirder. Chasing the game after 50 minutes where were Townsend or Soldado? Instead we got Holtby and Chadli but again it worked. When Townsend did finally appear we were already in the ascendency and his minor cameo only gave us more control and finesse in their half.

So a win and three points which, with other results somehow going in our favour, moves us back into sixth ahead of another difficult fixture against another team already struggling for their Premiership lives.

Under Gus Poyet, Sunderland have improved immensely of late with home wins against Citeh and Newcastle in the Prem plus a CapOnecup victory over Southampton but they came down to earth on Wednesday – beaten by Chelski in a 7 goal thriller. They are scoring goals, but leaking them as well, which is, perhaps, good news for us.

It is highly unlikely that they will park the proverbial bus in front of goal instead trying to outscore us. This should leave us enough room to manoeuvre and get in behind them. Whether our final ball will be good enough to find anyone in the area of course is a mute point but with our current long-range striking capability we should be able to come away with all the points.

And finally, before I finish, I have to add a few words about Nelson Mandella who sadly died yesterday.

As someone who lived in southern Africa (Malawi to be precise) during the 1960s at a time when Mandella was in prison, you have to understand the two different points of view. On one side he was perceived as a terrorist, on the other he was a freedom fighter.

Personnally, I always felt that he was more of a South African version of Mahatma Gandhi – someone who wanted to protest at an inhumane way of Government but in a non-violent manner – It was only after the slaughter of many of his fellow Africans that he took up an armed struggle and for that he was jailed for 27 years.

When finally released he again sought the peaceful way, never once asked for retribution against his captors, and presided over a period of relative calm within his  country.

He managed to use sport as a means to an end – seeing World Cup football, cricket and rugby staged in a once divided nation – he will be sorely missed by all around the world.

May the world remember Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in the way he would have wanted. A man who wanted to bring peace to a troubled world.

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