Cattermole’s style gives Sunderland steel

Sunderland 2 Blackburn Rovers 1
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The Independent Online

It is tempting to dismiss Lee Cattermole as no more than a destructive midfield player. Tempting, but unfair, according to the 21-year-old who was at the core of a combative performance that earned Sunderland a fortunate victory.

The committed approach that is a feature of Cattermole's style has already made him a cult figure at the Stadium of Light. There is a traditional streak among the Sunderland supporters that likes nothing more than to see opponents tackled into oblivion by the type of challenge that is increasingly rare.

Cattermole obliged on several occasions, earning another yellow card towards the suspension that inevitably awaits him. But his ability to retain possession and the manner in which he created the winning goal for Kenwyne Jones after 53 minutes hinted there is much more to his game than aggression.

Cattermole said: "It annoys me how much people make of my tackling because I believe every midfielder should be able to tackle. It's part of the role and I'm only doing what every midfielder did 10 years ago. People don't talk about how I can pass the ball as well. I played in the Under-21s all summer and I was one of the players who didn't get booked once in five games, but I still made tackles. Tackling is not as big a part of my game as it is made out to be."

Nevertheless, it is the primary reason Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, pursued Cattermole during the summer.

Bruce said: "I identified when we played against Sunderland that they didn't have enough physical strength to deal with my Wigan team. Look at Blackburn. If you can't physically match them, then you're goosed."

Sunderland's goose would have been cooked if Blackburn had capitalised on their first-half superiority when they took a 21st- minute lead through Gaël Givet.

Jones's pace led to an equaliser after a mistake by Chris Samba before the second-half goal ensured an outcome that was harsh on Blackburn, who hit the bar and had two goals disallowed, one debatably, the other unarguably correct.

Nikola Kalinic, their new £6m forward, also missed several chances, including a glorious one deep into stoppage time. Sam Allardyce, the Rovers manager, said: "He didn't find the finish we know he has got in his locker, but perhaps that is just nerves and a lack of match practice.

"Nikola got in three goalscoring positions on his first outing away from home in the Premier League, so that looks promising. The good thing is he was there to miss them, but the sad thing is we came away with nothing."

The defeat leaves Rovers still without a point, but midfielder Keith Andrews said: "If we carry on what we're doing and with the same effort, I can only see us improving. We felt a little bit hard done by by the disallowed goals but there are some good points to take from the game."

Sunderland (4-4-2): Fulop; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney (Nosworthy, 60); Malbranque (Henderson, 79), Cana, Cattermole, Richardson; Bent (Campbell, 89), Jones. Substitutes not used: Gordon (gk), Reid, Leadbitter, Healy.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Robinson; Jacobsen, Samba, Nelsen (Olsson, h-t), Givet; Pedersen, N'Zonzi, Andrews, Diouf (McCarthy, 71); Di Santo (Kalinic, 14), Roberts. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Emerton, Grella, Hoilett.

Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire)

Booked: Sunderland Cattermole, Bardsley; Blackburn McCarthy.

Man of the match: Cattermole.

Attendance: 37,106.

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