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The fixtures are out, players have been signed, season tickets have been sold and the whole of Wearside is looking forward to yet another season in the Premier League and our European debut. We upset the apple cart last season by finishing 7th in the league and I feel that we are capable of repeating that again this time round. The one thing that held us back was our poor defence. I’ve tweaked our team instructions so I’ll judge things after our first few games before making any drastic changes.
Monday 17th August 2015: Barclays Premier League
Queens Park Rangers 1 Sunderland 2
Butland/ Van Aanholt/ Ake/ O’Shea/ Jonny/ Cattermole/ Huddlestone (Zelalem)/ Borini (Coman)/ Rodwell/ Johnson (Roberts)/ Fletcher
Goals: Fletcher 32’ Austin 51’ (P) Fletcher 87’ (P)
MOTM: Fletcher (Sunderland)
We left it late but at least we won our first game of the season. There’s nothing worse than playing catch up is there? Bit of a dodgy penalty to give away as I was convinced that it was just on the edge of the area, but, justice prevailed in the end as we too were rewarded a penalty and Steven Fletcher smashed it into the top right corner.
Thursday 20th August 2015: Europa League Qualifying Round First Leg
Sunderland 2 Willem II 0
Pantilimon/ Briggs (Obita)/ Ayham/ Faria/ Bellerin/ Zelalem/ Alli/ Coman/ Giaccherini/ Roberts (Mavrias)/ Wickham
Goals: Wickham 73’ Coman 88’
Red Card: Bellerin 32’
MOTM: Coman (Sunderland)
I decided to play a second string team here so I can keep the team fresh for Sunday. We played well. Matty Briggs had a blinder. He almost scored from the half way line with a fluke of a shot which hit the top bar. The scoreline doesn’t reflect how dominant we were and that’s all down to Willem playing a solid defence game hoping to get the win in the 2nd leg. We got the result that we needed, putting the pressure on the Dutch side in the next game.
Sunday 23rd August 2015: Barclays Premier League
Sunderland 2 Watford 0
Butland/ Van Aanholt/ Ake/ O’Shea/ Jonny (Byram)/ Huddlestone (Alli)/ Cattermole/ Coman/ Rodwell/ Johnson/ Fletcher (Borini)
Goals: Rodwell 25’ Borini 79’
MOTM: Butland (Sunderland)
Watford did have their moments at times, Troy Deeney caused some problems to our defence but our quality shone through in the end. Nice clean sheet too, that’s always a bonus in the long run.
Thursday 27th August 2015: Europa League Qualifying Round Second Leg
Willem II 0 (0) Sunderland 2 (4)
Pantilimon/ Briggs/ Ayham/ Faria/ Byram/ Bridcutt (Alli)/ Cattermole/ Coman/ Zelalem/ Roberts(Buckley)/ Wickham
Goals: Byram 31’ Wickham 67’
MOTM: Ayham (Sunderland)
Far far far too good for Willem here. Once Byram got the opener from an early corner, they just fell apart and we had an extra swagger in our step. We’ve progressed to the group stages of the tournament and now we have to wait and see who we’ll be facing in our group.
Sunday 30th August 2015: Barclays Premier League
Manchester United 4 Sunderland 3
Butland/ Jonny/ Ake/ O’Shea/ Byram/ Borini/ Huddlestone (Alli)/ Cattermole/ Johnson/ Rodwell/ Fletcher (Coman)
Goals: Rooney 34’ Borini 35’ Fletcher 43’ Rooney 45’ Rooney 58’ (P) Cattermole 60’ Rojo 78’
MOTM: Rooney (Man Utd)
We may have lost the game but we played marvellously well. Unlike our previous visit to Old Trafford, we put up a hell of a fight and were unlucky not to walk away with anything. This is the type of performance I want to see from the lad’s week in, week out. I see a lot of positives then negatives from this game.
Following the Man Utd game, the group stages for the Europa League were drawn:
Europa League Group L: Sunderland, Molde FK, Malmo FF, Bayern 04 Leverkusen
Trust us in our European debut to be drawn in the same group as the current holders of the competition. It could only happen to us, right? A reporter asked for my thoughts on the draw:
“It’s a tough group first and foremost. Bayern are the current holders of the Europa League and Molde and Malmo done very well in their respected leagues so they’ve got to be respected. The biggest lesson I learnt last season was that nothing in football is guaranteed. If we enter these games with a positive mind-set, stick to our game-plan, we could very well cause a few upsets in this competition.”
The Europa League is a learning curve for us as we look to build for the future and gain experience from playing in Europe. My target for the Europa League is to qualify from the group. Looking at the group, I feel as if that target is achievable.
Player of the month: Lee Cattermole.
Dominant in the centre of the park. Plays with his heart on his sleeve and never fails to give less than 110% in every game he plays.
5th in the league after three games. Could have been 2nd had we not lost to Man Utd, but the season is judged after 38 games not 3. The challenge now is to keep it up and see if we can remain in the top half of the table.