Sitting in 14th and 20th in the league before kick-off, the dismal numbers were reflected in the reality of this game. The quality was low, the chances were few and Sunderland boss Gus Poyet looked pretty irritated throughout.
It didn’t start too badly, particularly on Norwich’s part. After 11 minutes, for instance, a sequence of neat, quick passes made room for Nathan Redmond on the left. As he cut in, a decoy run from Hooper opened up even more space; with it, Redmond took the opportunity to shoot, hard and low, back across goal. Vito Mannone ended up saving well at his near post.
But the quality dwindled. Sunderland were restricted to shots from distance in the first half - Phil Bardsley has a minimum of three per game - and Norwich caught the same bug eventually, becoming less and less creative as the game went on.
At times in the second half the game took on a neat up and down rhythm, with break followed by counter-break, and counter-break followed by counter-counter-break - and so on. The problem with that - as fun as it can be - was, really, it was a symptom of neither side being able to do the business at the end of attacks. There were no goals to break up the rhythm.
11' REDMOND SHOT - Pass-pass-pass in quick succession by Norwich. Then Redmond gets the ball on the right, a dummy run by Altidore opens up the space for him to cut in, which he does, before shooting low and hard back across goal! It's going for the bottom corner until Mannone intervenes.
30' FABIO BORINI WITH SUNDERLAND'S BEST FIRST HALF MOMENT - Borini fires wide! Close! He moves into the penalty area, shifts his weight and then aims towards Ruddy's near post. He doesn't get what he wants, but he gets closer than Sunderland have got at any other time in this half.
82' KI SHOULD SCORE - Johnson's great ball is swung right around the back of the Norwich defence. Someone gets a touch to it and it starts rolling towards the byline. Ruddy comes for it, but Borini's after it too; the goalkeeper ends up in no-man's land as Borini beats him to the ball and plays it to Ki. But he lobs it onto the top of the net!
90+4' WES BROWN SENT OFF - And Wes Brown is sent off! He goes in hard and from behind against van Wolfswinkel. What was he thinking?! Norwich just had the ball in the corner?
Despite the point each, at the end of this game both teams remained fixed in the same positions as they started the game in: 20th and 14th.
Sunderland will be bottom at Christmas. Last time that happened was in 2005-06 and they ended that season in 20th place.
Sunderland have scored fewer goals than any Premier League team, except Crystal Palace. They have just 12.
Today was a rare clean sheet away from home for Norwich. Before going up to Sunderland they'd conceded more goals away from home than any other team in the Premier League this season (21).
Why isn't Steven Fletcher starting for Sunderland? Just like last week, Steven Fletcher came on for Sunderland midway through the second half, replacing Jose Altidore. Gus Poyet clearly doesn't fancy him, but as the weeks go by and the lack of goals stack up - or rather, don't stack up - the question of leaving a proven goalscorer on the bench will become more prominent. It has to. Fletcher got into useful positions when he came on today - even if the service wasn't always great - and Sunderland - like any team - could do with a player who does that on from the start.
Sunderland: Mannone 7, Celustka 6, Bardsley 7, Brown 6, O'Shea 7, Cattermole 6, Ki 7, Larsson 6, Borini 6, Giaccherini 5, Altidore 6. Subs: Fletcher 7, Johnson 6, Roberge 5, Norwich: Ruddy 7; Whittaker 6, Turner 7, Bassong 7, Olsson 6; Snodgrass 6, Fer 6, Johnson 6, Redmond 6; Elmander 6, Hooper 6. Subs: van Wolfswinkel 6.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Vito Mannone (Sunderland): He made the saves asked of him. That's all there really is to say: he stood out as competent in a realm of incompetence.
MATCH IN A TWEET
- Sports & Recreation
- Steven Fletcher
- Norwich City
- Vito Mannone