SRL88's Career - Sunderland AFC - December & January 2022/23
A very mixed month, but who ever comes up with those 'random' fixtures decided to do us over here with our away fixtures.
Despite dominating things against Ipswich we were made to wait and work hard for our win. The breakthrough finally came with just fifteen minutes remaining and we then went on to seal the win in stoppage time. Our next encounter saw us travel to Arsenal where we were completely played off the park despite their struggles this season. We rarely ventured forward and looked second best throughout and were comprehensively beaten 3-0. We stayed in London for our next game, this time at Chelsea and although we suffered another defeat, our performance was massively improved. The game was extremely even, but we had the much better chances in the game. It made it all that more difficult to accept defeat when we conceded with just a few minutes left on the clock. After back-to-back defeats we were desperate for a victory against Wigan and once again we were forced to work hard and wait for the winner. After a nervy game, Harry Kane managed to squeeze the ball home from close range to give us a huge win. Our performance improved a lot against Reading and we took the lead through a thunderbolt of an effort from Eddie Hancock. Despite this, Reading leveled things up just before the break and it had massive affect on our confidence going into the second half. We had to dig in before taking the lead once again just after the hour mark before going on to take control of the game and seal a 4-1 win. The month rounded off with another poor performance on the road, this time at runaway leaders Man City as we suffered another 3-0 defeat.
Coming off the back of a tricky month it was nice to see us pick our performances up with three wins from three to bring us right back into Champions League contention.
An unbelievably quick start against Southampton saw us two goals up in the opening ten minutes. We went on to add a third before some sloppy defending saw our clean sheet disappear, but still picked up a comfortable win. We had to put in a resolute performance against West Ham who gave us a real difficult game. After a tough opening period we began to edge things in the second half and it took a bit of luck to give us the lead through a deflection before going on to seal the win late on for a massive three points. Another quick start at home saw us flying after just four minutes against Aston Villa as we led 2-0, and a third was added just twenty minutes later. We conceded before half-time, but added a fourth in the second half to give us another win.
UEFA Champions League Group Stage
It was nice to see us round things off with a victory to leave us unbeaten through the group, but it didn't come without a battle.
Lyon were impressive in the first half and took a deserved lead after dominating large periods of the opening 45. Some stern words were said at half-time and it didn't take us long to turn things around as we leveled things two minutes after the restart. We went on to add a winner in the game to give us a narrow 2-1 win.
We have been reunited with AC Milan once again in the next round, but have the advantage straight away having beaten them last season, and with the first leg in Milan.
FA Cup Third & Fourth Rounds
Not the best of starts, and things have been very disappointing thus far.
We were poor in the first half against Stoke and deserved to be behind in the game at the interval. We didn't start the second half all that well either, but plodded on and found an equalising goal on the hour mark. After that it was all us and we had numerous opportunities to go on and win the game but failed to do so. That took things to a replay where after making a good start I expected us to kick on but it didn't happen. Although Stoke rarely offered a threat, the fact that we only led by one goal left things a little nervy, but we managed to see the game through.
The win set up what looked to be a banker of a win against League Two side Portsmouth but we just didn't show up. Portsmouth were really up for it and we looked as though we should have walked things. That wasn't the case as Portsmouth shocked us by taking the lead. Despite leveling the game up before the break we still didn't do anything of note and could easily have exited the competition, and on reflection can consider ourselves lucky to have taken them to a replay.
Should we get past Portsmouth in our replay, we will face Brighton at home.
Capital One Cup Quarter-Final & Semi-Final 1st Leg
Two huge wins of different respects, but brought about by one-man.
A stunning first half display against Arsenal by Harry Kane saw him grab a superb hat-trick. Each of those goals came after an Arsenal goal as all five goals in the game were scored before half-time. The second half slowed down a lot, but we did our job to beat another big name in excellent form in this competition. The same man stole the show against Brighton to put us in pole position to make our second Final in a row. Another superb display which saw him lead the line excellently well brought about another hat-trick.
If we manage to see through the second leg, we will go on to face either Liverpool or Championship side QPR at Wembley.
One fee jumps out in what was an otherwise pretty low-key transfer window for us. The key was that those players we did bring in help improve the squad further, both now and for the future.
Martin Petrov was the first player to leave this window. After a few years with the club he just didn't cut it for us and was soon shipped out in a £5.5m deal. Takuma Ichikawa and recent signing Steve Edwards will spend the rest of the season out on loan at Leicester and Colchester respectively, whilst youngster Nick Ward was released after missing training and then feeling the subsequent fine was unfair.
Aaron Kuhl - A massive fee which has seen us break our transfer record once again, but this was a must-deal for me. I've been chasing him for nearly five years now and his form has improved season in, season out for Reading. He is bang in his prime and he will be a key signing for us.
Santos - I am on the fence with this deal as I think his signing will go one way or the other. He is either going to be fantastic or he won't settle. I'm hopeful, but time will tell.
Antonio Palhinha - This is a deal I have been keeping an eye on for around a year now. I can't believe he hasn't been offered a new deal, which is why we got him on such a cheap deal.
Steve Edwards - Another cheap deal due an expiring contract. He hasn't improved as I would have liked to this point, but he has vast potential.
David Vargas - He has been brought in purely as a back-up and that is included in his deal. He fills a defensive void, but is also versatile which is a massive benefit.