Restoring the sorely missed Daniels/Pugh partnership on the left, replacing the mis-firing O’Kane with Gosling in midfield and giving Tomlin and Distin their first starts, the latter due to Captain Elphick being injured.
A familiar face in the Black Cats’ line-up was that of Jermain Defoe – and we all know what he’s capable of!
In glorious autumn sunshine, the Cherries hit the ground running with Daniels and Pugh marauding down the left flank with telepathic precision – you wouldn’t want to be a right-back when those two are on song!
But it was a move on the other flank that produced the first goal with barely four minutes on the clock. After the erratic Pantelimon had shanked a clearance into the main stand, a quick throw-in found Gosling who surged forward before slipping the ball to Wilson with his back to goal on the edge of the box. Our top scorer turned his marker (the hapless Kaboul) with consummate ease and hammered the ball low and hard past the Sunderland keeper. Absolute class!
The visitors continued to flounder under sustained Cherries pressure and another goal looked likely, although the spectacular nature of the strike took everyone by surprise. A corner on the left was headed out to Richie standing some 25 yards out. The diminutive Scottish international took the ball on his chest before volleying a viciously swerving shot into the top left-hand corner. What a way to open your Premier League account! And something to look forward to seeing again on MOTD!
Sunderland tried to get a foothold in the game, but found Distin in particular in commanding form. They did come close to scoring when a free-kick near the corner flag nearly caught Boruc out at his near post.
However, their best chances of the half fell to Defoe. He looked certain to score when he burst through on goal, but Cook did just enough to put him off and Buruc managed to save with his legs. He then thankfully put a header wide when well placed to hit the target.
But apart from these sporadic moments of danger, our defence looked solid and a goal at the other end seemed more likely. Tomlin was having an excellent game playing just behind Wilson and nearly found his way through on goal.
The second half was a more even contest with the visitors gaining a degree of control in midfield and managing to exert a bit more pressure. They even had the ball in the net when Lens got on the end of a cross from the left, but his effort was ruled out for offside. The lino’s decision was somewhat dubious, but at least it made up for some of the injustices we have suffered this season...
Then we had an anxious moment when Borini tried to emulate Richie’s strike with a powerful volley that fortunately landed on the roof of the net.
At the other end, Wilson had been giving Kaboul a torrid time throughout and when the Frenchman had to resort to hacking him down, the ref had no hesitation in giving him a second yellow card.
We showed astute “game management” in closing out the game against the ten men, and Pugh should have added a third goal when his shot bounced up onto the crossbar.
Near the end we then had our first glimpse of Glenn Murray who stung Pantilimon’s fingers with a rasping drive before getting booked for a “robust” challenge.
Excellent performances throughout the team, the first clean sheet and two top-notch goals, but let’s not get carried away. Sunderland had a good goal chalked off and on another day Defoe might have buried his chances.
We’ll no doubt face sterner tests in the weeks to come, but there were a lot of positives to take from today, fully justifying the manager’s selections.
Wilson – speed, strength and a great goal!
AFCB: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Distin, Daniels, Ritchie, Gosling, Surman, Pugh, Tomlin, Wilson
Subs: Federici, Bennett, Stanislas, Kermorgant, O'Kane (for Tomlin, 65 mins), Murray (for Wilson, 76 mins), Smith (for Ritchie, 90 mins)
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey