Sbragia vents frustrations as Sunderland blow advantage

Sunderland 1 Tottenham 1
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The Independent Football

In its own way football is as frustrating as golf, it just doesn't get the credit. Wearside staged its own Open on Saturday and everyone struggled with the gusts sweeping in from the North Sea. At its end, there were expressions of annoyance and relief that told of a rough afternoon. At least no one lost.

Sunderland's manager of 14 weeks, Ricky Sbragia, was foremost in vocalising this irritation, though during the game his opposite number, Harry Redknapp, could be seen swearing on the touchline at a Gordon Ramsay rate. Management does this to grown men, but by the time they make it to the microphone usually a sense of restraint grips them. Not on Saturday. Sbragia named names. Chief culprits were his strikers Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cissé, who would surely both be on the bench next time around, if Sunderland had the squad for it.

After Sunderland had taken a third-minute lead through Kieran Richardson the home midfield caressed the ball around in a manner that suggested it could be a big day for the club. But when the ball was shuttled forward to Jones and Cissé, back it came. Relentlessly.

"God. Football, eh?" began Sbragia. "We told them [Jones and Cissé] at half-time and at the beginning of the game. We spoke about the importance of retaining the ball. The first four balls that went up, we lost possession. Three went to Djib and he gave it away. He's paid to retain the ball. That's what he's paid to do and he hasn't done it."

"Djib" was replaced on 74 minutes; Jones, the subject of a £16m bid from Tottenham in January, played like he thought that was way too much.

Then there was Spurs' equaliser. It came in the 89th minute, from a Sunderland corner. Sbragia was yelling that it be taken short, that time be wasted. The ball was hit into the box, cleared and five seconds later was stroked into the other net by Robbie Keane. "To concede from a corner-kick is absolutely abysmal," Sbragia said. "How long do we tell them? Christ, I might have to send a note out to them. They'll have to write it down on their hands – 'if we get a corner in the last minute, play it short'."

Home ire was stoked by Ledley King's clear pull on Jones at the corner, but then part of Redknapp's infuriating 89 minutes was a penalty box handball by Sunderland's Phil Bardsley.

Then there were the moments when Redknapp clearly thought that his missus would have done better than Aaron Lennon or Darren Bent.

But Keane is back. For £20m Liverpool gave him 19 appearances, an exercise in frustration. "I can't score goals if I am not on the pitch," he said after his second in four days.

"This is where he's at home, where his heart is," Redknapp added. "You have to feel like you're appreciated in life and he knows how much I wanted to bring him here. The fans have welcomed him back and he wants to repay that. A bit of love, that's what it's about."

Sbragia said: "I need a beer, a couple of beers, flipping hell."

Goals: Richardson (3) 1-0; Keane (89) 1-1.

Sunderland (4-4-2) Fulop; Bardsley, Ben-Haim, Collins, McCartney; Malbranque, Whitehead, Richardson (Leadbitter, 84) Reid (Edwards, 83); Cissé (Murphy, 74) Jones. Substitutes not used: Gordon (gk), Davenport, McShane, Healy.

Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2) Gomes; Corluka (Pavlyuchenko, 83) Woodgate, King, Chimbonda; Lennon, Jenas (Huddlestone, 63) Palacios (Bentley, 72) Modric; Bent, Keane. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Dawson, O'Hara, Zokora.

Booked: Sunderland Richardson, McCartney, Bardsley; Tottenham Woodgate, Corluka.

Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).

Man of the match: Richardson.

Attendance: 37,894.