Birmingham player ratings gallery vs Sunderland: Two earn 8/10 despite 2-1 loss as one gets 4/10
Player ratings from Birmingham City 1-2 Sunderland - as two Blues players earn surprise 8/10 despite defeat.
Birmingham City enter the World Cup break with a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Sunderland at St Andrew’s. Blues’ four-match unbeaten run came to an end on the night of Jobe Bellingham’s first Championship start, as the Black Cats were resilient to defend a clinical lead.
The game - rather ironically given it was delayed due to a missing corner flag - began with high intensity and plenty of end-to-end play. Blues goalkeeper John Ruddy was called into a couple of early stops - the first the better of the two as Ellis Simms was denied one on one. Birmingham made a speedy response to the Black Cats’ early pressure as Troy Deeney was inches away from giving his side the lead, just minutes later.
The former Watford man reacted quickest to a stray aerial ball but his header thundered back off the crossbar. Things calmed somewhat after frantic beginnings as Eustace’s men regained control of the ball and slowed down play. Sunderland were able to - rather out of nothing - make a breakthrough at the 25th-minute mark, however.
Simms made up for a miss earlier on the night as he fired into the bottom left-hand corner. He was left unmarked by Auston Trusty, but the ball should never have made it through to him. Dion Sanderson and Jobe Bellingham simply weren’t strong enough in the challenge as they let an Amad Diallo pass through.
Blues were much better after going one down and were able to make a clear-cut opportunity just before half time. Scott Hogan, who was played in by a brilliant through ball from Deeney, saw a shot saved at close range by goalkeeper Anthony Patterson. Krystian Bielik had a tame header stopped soon after.
Sunderland were the better team immediately after the break, however, and it didn’t take long for them to double their lead. Midfielder Daniel Neil picked up the ball in his own half and threaded a pinpoint through ball to Diallo, who cut in and curled a goal of the season contender into the top left corner - in off the post.
Blues were sluggish to get back and Trusty probably could’ve done a little more to stop it from happening, but it was a true moment of brilliance from the Ivorian. Ruddy was left with no chance whatsoever as matters were made worse for the hosts.
Eustace turned to the bench just before the hour mark, making a triple substitution. Maxime Colin, Hannibal Mejbri and Bellingham were replaced by Tahith Chong, George Hall and Lukas Jutkiewicz. The changes seemed to make an instant impact, as City became far brighter and looked the better side.
Some intense pressure finally paid off in the 78th minute as super sub, Lukas Jutkiewicz, scored his first goal in 12 months - much to the delight of the St Andrew’s faithful. Emmanuel Longelo had whipped in a dangerous ball from the left and the Black Cats failed to clear. Jutkiewicz found the corner with a composed finish.
Blues continued to push on as they searched for an equaliser and they nearly did as Sanderson fired hard and low after a set piece fell to him just inside the area. It would’ve perhaps found the corner if George Hall hadn’t accidentally blocked it near the goal line. There was a big penalty shout as Chong was brought down with a clear tug of his shirt - Sunderland getting away with one perhaps.
Seven minutes were added on due to stoppages but it wasn’t quite enough as the visitors remained resolute in defence, holding on for a 2-1 victory. Birmingham taste defeat tonight but there were definitely some positives to take ahead of the World Cup.