Sunderland 1 Southampton 0 match report: Keeping alive the cup dream ends Gus Poyet’s nightmare

Black Cats have appeared a different team in recent weeks as they progress to the FA Cup sixth round to compliment their Capital One Cup final

Stadium of Light

Gus Poyet no longer knows whether to laugh or cry. For the eighth time this season, Sunderland have won a cup tie at home. In context, it has taken them 37 games to amass that many victories at the Stadium of Light in the Premier League.

Poyet admitted he had not considered either domestic cup competition when he arrived at the Academy of Light to clear up the carnage left by Paolo Di Canio back in October. But the cups have become the gifts that keep giving.

There were fewer than 17,000 in the ground to see Sunderland reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Once upon a time that would have seemed implausible, but there were factors that dampened the supporters’ ardour, along with the relentless rain. 

The club announced yesterday that it had sold its full 31,000 ticket allocation for the Capital One Cup final with Manchester City next month. A trip to London, most likely for the whole weekend, is not cheap. All that said, it was still a disappointing crowd.

 

For Poyet, the angst goes beyond empty seats. A replay, which was only avoided because of an awful finish from the England striker Ricky Lambert in the final 10 minutes, would have had to have been played on the week leading up to their final against City. It could not have been in the middle of that preceding week because that would have clashed with the Champions League.

If there was relief that a replay had been avoided, victory meant another fixture cancelled. Sunderland, who are fighting for their Premier League lives, have now to rearrange games with West Bromwich Albion, Liverpool and Manchester City.

“I would be more famous if we win a cup than if we stay up,” Poyet said. “They would build a statue, but I don’t want to be known by any more people.

“If you win, there is a problem with [fixture] congestion. If you lose, you don’t care. I cannot win! We are trying to get a good feeling [in the team]. I want them to feel we can win games with anyone on the pitch, with any shape against anyone.

“That feeling was not here when I arrived. It was the opposite. There was a fear. It was not to lose. Now it is the opposite.”

Victory, in a game the absent fans didn’t lose much in missing, came four minutes into the second half, when Luke Shaw erred, Victor Wanyama dithered and Craig Gardner (pictured) strode through and smashed a 25-yard shot off the underside of Kelvin Davis’ crossbar.

Only in the closing moments did Southampton rally. When Nathaniel Clyne crossed low into the Sunderland six-yard box with eight minutes remaining, Poyet’s worse nightmare looked set to come true. But Lambert, to everyone’s surprise, his own included, proceeded to blast the ball over the crossbar from four yards.

“A striker is happy when he scores,” said the Southampton assistant manager Jesus Perez. “He is disappointed when it is going out. Ricky tried as good as he could. There is nothing to say.

“We are a little bit sad to be out of the FA Cup. We tried to move forward. It proved impossible today. We protect and support all our squad. When you are not winning games you are disappointed for the supporters. To support us they are doing a long journey to watch the game. We tried to play as good as we can. We are sorry.”

Line-ups:

Sunderland (4-1-3-2): Ustari; Celustka, Vergini, O’Shea, Dossena (Alonso, 77); Cattermole; Larsson, Gardner (Colback, 82), Giaccherini; Borini, Scocco (Wickham, 69).

Southampton (4-2-3-1): K Davis; Clyne, Yoshida, Hooiveld, Shaw; Wanyama, S Davis; Ward-Prowse (Scheniderlin, 62), Lallana (McQUeen, 82), Do Prado (Rodriguez 62); Lambert.

Referee: Mike Dean.

Man of the match: Gardner (Sunderland)

Match rating: 3/10

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