Sunderland collapse at Tottenham as Jan Kirchhoff has nightmare debut
Sunderland were made to suffer as a complete loss of concentration and shape led to a second half collapse on Saturday, allowing Tottenham an easy 4-1 victory to end the Wearsiders' mini-revival in their fight against relegation.
Manager Sam Allardyce was significantly at fault, his withdrawal of Lee Cattermole and subsequent introduction of Jan Kirchhoff causing havoc.
Allardyce could be forgiven for fearing Cattermole was a liability after a booking with the second half barely under way. He may also have been angry at his midfielder's bungled attempt at a goal line clearance that handed Spurs an equaliser 90 seconds after Patrick van Aanholt's opener for Sunderland in the first half.
But Cattermole's replacement, Jack Rodwell, had no impact. And instead of shoring up the defence to withstand late Spurs pressure, the arrival of former Bayern Munich defender Kirchhoff, sent on for the industrious if limited Danny Graham, seemed to disrupt the system.
Almost immediately, Mousa Dembele put Spurs ahead. Then, Kirchhoff's unconvincing stab at a long-range Christian Eriksen shot merely deflected the ball beyond goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's reach and the German crowned a dismal Premier League debut by clumsily conceding a penalty for Spurs' fourth.
All Sunderland's sterling efforts to keep Spurs at bay had been wasted. Only another fine display from 21-year-old Pickford, making his own Premier League debut after a man of the match showing in the FA Cup defeat at Arsenal on Jan. 9, prevented a more embarrassing scoreline.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 8 -- Again on the end of an emphatic defeat but as in the FA Cup game at Arsenal, he showed enormous promise with several great saves, impressive positioning and reliable distribution. Not at fault for the goals.
DF Billy Jones, 6 -- A mixed performance. Strong in the first-half but shakier when Spurs attacked the flanks more purposefully.
DF John O'Shea, 6 -- Marshalled his defence well until Sunderland became alarmingly vulnerable following Allardyce's second half changes.
DF Wes Brown, 6 -- Showed grit and creditable stamina for a 36-year-old but unable to resist the home side's relentless pressure.
DF Patrick van Aanholt, 7-- The Dutch wing-back took his goal well and was a constant threat when advancing on the left. His defending is never wholly reassuring but he made some important interceptions.
MF Lee Cattermole, 6 -- His wretched attempt at a goal line clearance gave Spurs an immediate equaliser after Van Aanholt's opener and he was needlessly booked in the 46th minute, persuading Allardyce to withdraw him.
MF Yann M'Vila, 6 --The Frenchman was less visible than in most of his games for Sunderland but was nevertheless responsible for rare instances of midfield quality.
MF Adam Johnson, 7 -- Deservedly booked for cynical arm-grabbing and this marred an otherwise decent game that included several accurate long balls and the exemplary defence-splitting pass to create Van Aanholt's goal.
MF Danny Graham, 6 -- Did little that was eye-catching but was useful in the first half, bolstering the left flank to give Van Aanholt space to attack.
MF Jeremain Lens, 6 - Some delightful pieces of skill but none led to anything noteworthy and he was otherwise anonymous.
FW Jermain Defoe, 7 -- The former Spurs striker worked tirelessly but never looked capable of repeating the hat-trick at Swansea in midweek, his threat neutralised by tight marking and unintelligent service.
MF Jack Rodwell, 5 -- Failed again to produce game-changing qualities and ease acute disappointment that has followed his £10 million signing at the beginning of last season.
DF Jan Kirchhoff 4 -- The former Bayern Munich defender's debut was eagerly awaited but it turned into a nightmare. A lazy deflection from Eriksen's shot for the third goal and conceded an utterly naïve penalty for Harry Kane to make it 4-1.
FW Duncan Watmore, N/R -- The young striker looked lively when sent on but had no opportunity to make an impact.
Colin is ESPN FC's Sunderland blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @salutsunderland