Di Santo pounces on nervy Sunderland error to pile pressure on Bruce
Sunderland 1 Wigan Athletic 2
Stadium of Light
Sunday 27 November 2011
There was joy for a Jordi in Sunderland yesterday but sheer despair for the Geordie in charge of Wearside's Premier League club. Jordi Gomez's 44th-minute equaliser from the penalty spot cranked up the pressure on Steve Bruce in a contest he dared not lose. Franco Di Santo's 93rd-minute winner left the home fans turning en masse on the Black Cats manager with the Tyneside roots. "You fat Geordie bastard, get out of our club," was the resounding chant as a crestfallen Bruce disappeared down the tunnel at the final whistle.
There have been "Bruce out" chants before, but in isolation and in passing. This time the volume of the dissent had a sea-change feel about it. Having failed to register a win in successive home games against Fulham and the team that started the weekend at the foot of thePremier League, and onlysucceeded in scraping a solitary point, Bruce's future may well be called into question as his side's campaign threatens to descend into a relegation fight.
Writing in the match programme, Ellis Short, the American businessman who succeeded Niall Quinn as Sunderland chairman at the start of October, did not feel "there is a need to panic".
Whether Short will be more inclined to reach for the panic button after witnessing the self-destructive finale yesterday remains to be seen. As for Bruce, he cut a haunted figure at pitch-side after Wes Brown and Kieren Westwood made a hash of seemingly routine defensive duties, letting James McArthur nip in, steal the ball and square it for Di Santo, a fellow Wigan substitute, to side-foot the winner.
It was like flicking a switch as the frustration gave vent to venom pouring forth in Bruce's direction. "It borders on abuse," the Sunderland manager said. "I can't help where I was born. When it gets like it is it's disappointing. But I'm a resilient so-and-so. I'm determined to see it through. My intention is not to walk away and quit. That is not in my nature."
Sunderland go to Wolves next Saturday just two points ahead of Wigan, who moved off the bottom with only their second win of the season. "It is a contrast of emotions," Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said. "Seven days ago we were on the floor, as bad as you can feel. This week we are as delighted as you can be."
Unfortunate in the extreme to be held to a 3-3 draw at home to Blackburn the previous Saturday, Wigan did not get off to the best of starts yesterday. When Nicklas Bendtner curled a low ball into the heart of their penalty area in the eighth minute, goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi allowed the ball to bounce off his chest and, although he blocked Kieran Richardson's follow-up, Sebastian Larsson lashed the loose ball home.
Wigan's Omani keeper redeemed himself, thwarting Richardson, Brown, Larsson and John O'Shea. Phil Bardsley also blazed a shot over the bar with the goal by his mercy and as half-time approached the tide turned. Two minutes before the interval Larsson was adjudged to have tripped Victor Moses on the left edge of the Sunderland area and Gomez blasted in the penalty.
Sunderland were a bag or nerves thereafter. They had a penalty claim when a drive from Jack Colback appeared to strike the arm of a Wigan player, and Richardson had two late chances that came his way. As it was, they were undone by an anxiety attack in injury time, Brown choosing to play a nervy wall-pass with Westwood before losing possession and, with it, the game.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Westwood; O'Shea (Ji, 84), Turner, Brown, Bardsley (Vaughan, 66); Larsson, Cattermole (Gardner, 66), Colback, Sessegnon; Richardson, Bendtner.
Wigan (5-1-3-1): Al Habsi; Stam (McArthur, 74), Gohouri, Caldwell, Figueroa, Jones; Diame; Gomez, McCarthy, Moses; Sammon (Di Santo, 84).
Referee Kevin Friend.
Man of the match Al-Habsi (Wigan).
Match rating 5/10.
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