Sunderland fall deeper into the mire after meek surrender at Watford
Sunderland effectively said farewell to the Premier League with a meek 1-0 surrender to Watford on Saturday, losing in a game where a heavier defeat would not have seemed unjust.
Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford again produced a string of saves to keep the score down as David Moyes' side slid closer to relegation. There was plenty of end-to-end action at Vicarage Road, but only the home side seriously threatened. Miguel Britos' headed winner, the goal created by a completely unmarked Stefano Okaka, sealed the logical outcome.
Adnan Januzaj fluffed Sunderland's best chance when set up by Didier Ndong, but this was just one more punchless performance that deserved no better.
Sunderland visit Leicester City on Tuesday night, aware that only a win would realistically keep alive the slimmest hope of survival. Defeat at the hands of the champions, now resurgent after their own brush with relegation, is more likely.
Colin is ESPN FC's Sunderland blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @salutsunderland
Pickford again showed he has every chance of embarking on a long career as England's No.1. There were no other positives.
Yet another poor all-round performance with gaps at the back, frailty in midfield and with Jermain Defoe unserved and quiet, a woeful lack of punch in attack.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Moyes will claim that injuries and financial restraints deprive him of a competitive squad, but the sparse use of two potentially game-changing players, Ndong and Wahbi Khazri, exposed his own questionable judgement.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 8 -- Good saves, mostly faultless handling and excellent distribution. Sunderland supporters need to make the most of watching their local hero before, inevitably, he departs.
DF Billy Jones, 5 -- Made one timely saving header to prevent an early Watford lead and busied himself going forward, without challenging the view he is not quite Premier League standard.
DF John O'Shea, 6 -- Stuck to his task and did his best to minimise Watford's threat, but -- great servant though he is -- Sunderland need younger legs at the heart of defence.
DF Lamine Kone, 5 -- Still nowhere near the force he was last season, providing the usual mix of mighty interventions and worrying lapses of concentration.
DF Bryan Oviedo, 5 -- Decent forward play at times but rarely convincing in defence.
MF Jason Denayer, 5 -- Has ability but seems to lose heart as games drift away from Sunderland after bright opening spells.
MF Darron Gibson, 4 -- Once again disappointed, as he has done in most appearances since his arrival from Everton.
MF Jack Rodwell, 5 -- Made useful surges into the Watford penalty area in the first half but was unable to make a forceful impact in midfield.
MF Fabio Borini, 5 -- Worked hard but could not find decisive finishing touches, though one late shot was at least on target.
MF Adnan Januzaj, 4 -- Had one memorable moment, but one he'd prefer to forget, a feeble shot when Ndong's cross found him unmarked in Sunderland best chance of the game.
FW Jermain Defoe, 5 -- Starved of meaningful service and as a result, he was mostly invisible. After his goalscoring return to England action, it must have felt a riches-to-rags comedown.
MF Wahbi Khazri, 6 -- Won a hearty ironic cheer from away supporters on replacing the lacklustre Januzaj, reinforcing the popular belief he should start games. Proceeded to huff and puff and get himself booked but created little.
MF Didier Ndong, 7 -- Showed the drive and quality sorely lacking from Sunderland's earlier play and created the best chance.