Bruce angered by Ilunga's 'embarrassing' antics

Sunderland 2 West Ham 2
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The Independent Online

It may suit aesthetes of Arsène Wenger's persuasion to see Sam Allardyce portrayed as a dinosaur, but the Blackburn manager is not alone in fearing that football is in danger of becoming "a game for pansies". On that point, Steve Bruce, the manager of Sunderland, is ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Wenger's bête noire, even though his striker, Kenwyne Jones, faces a three-match ban after his dismissal against West Ham.

Bruce condemned Jones as "stupid" for the retaliatory push on defender Hérita Ilunga that left referee Andre Marriner with little alternative but to send him off. But he felt that Ilunga ought to have been punished with equal severity for what he saw as bringing a man's game into disrepute.

Ilunga fell down clutching his face in response to Jones's supposed assault, prompting West Ham's medical staff to rush to his aid with ice packs, only for him to resume after a few minutes, according to Bruce, without a mark.

"If it was one of my players behaving like that I would have been embarrassed," Bruce said. "Kenwyne pushed him and I can't defend that because he was stupid. But to go down as if he was poleaxed.... I hope he feels good about himself when he watches it. I'm embarrassed by his actions." Such behaviour, Bruce feels, is liable to distort a referee's judgment and Marriner had his sympathy. "The referees have got a difficult enough job without this sort of carry-on, the diving and trying to get people sent off," he said. "But people want endeavour and commitment because that is what makes the Premier League a spectacle."

Endeavour and commitment were in abundance here, particularly from Sunderland, who went two down as the excellent Jack Collison set up Guillermo Franco for his first West Ham goal and then Carlton Cole scored. Andy Reid's expertly struck free-kick gave Sunderland a lifeline which they grasped despite the loss of Jones before half-time. Keiran Richardson scored a deserved equaliser and Sunderland would have won had Darren Bent, otherwise superb, not fallen short with his finishing.

West Ham, who had Radoslav Kovac sent off for a second yellow, felt they had squandered an opportunity, prompting Gianfranco Zola, a manager most would place in the aesthetes' camp, to expose himself as not quite so pure. He said: "We were in control and we let them back in. We have to be a bit more cynical." Ilunga's behaviour was not, you hope, what he had in mind.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Gordon; Da Silva, Nosworthy, Turner, Richardson; Malbranque (McCartney 81), Henderson, Cana, Reid; Jones, Bent. Substitutes not used: Fulop (gk), Ferdinand, Bardsley, Healy, Meyler, Murphy.

West Ham United (4-4-2); Green; Spector, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga; Behrami (Diamanti 67), Noble, Kovac, Collison; Franco (Hines 72), Cole. Substitutes not used: Kurucz (gk) Gabbidon, Jimenez, Faubert, Stanislas.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).

Bookings: Sunderland: Cana, Bent, Turner. West Ham: Kovac, Ilunga, Cole.

Sent-off: Sunderland: Jones (45). West Ham: Kovac (87)

Attendance: 39,033.

Man of the match: Bent.

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