Neither Fabio Borini nor Son Heung-min made much of an impact on their respective debuts in a 1-0 win for Tottenham at Sunderland.
Borini, back at Sunderland on a permanent basis following a previous loan spell from Liverpool, started on the left of a 4-3-3 formation for Sunderland, while Son made his debut for Tottenham on the right of the three behind Harry Kane in a 4-2-3-1 set-up.
Borini failed to manage a single shot in his 73 minutes, however, while Son had only one wayward effort and another blocked attempt to show for his efforts in a 61-minute run-out.
Borini quiet as Defoe benefits
Borini’s lack of match action was evident as early as the 14th minute when he was set clear down the left but was quickly caught by Kyle Walker and was forced to cut back to attempt a one-two with Jermain Defoe which failed to come off.
Borini had earlier failed to get his toe on the end of a clipped Jeremain Lens pass over the Spurs defence, but while the Italian was struggling to get really involved, his presence in the team was clearly benefitting Defoe, back in his preferred central position.
Borini set up Defoe for a speculative 25-yard effort after 15 minutes, but it was the sign of the former Tottenham forward breaking clean through 10 minutes later that provided the best proof of his added effectiveness through the middle. Defoe failed to capitalise on the chance, scuffing an effort against the outside of the post, but he was the liveliest striker on show throughout.
Borini’s average position during the game was on the left-hand edge of the centre circle – Defoe, Lens and Ola Toivonen’s average positions were all further up the field – and it was no surprise when he was hooked by Dick Advocaat, 10 minutes after both he and Toivonen failed to react quickly enough to a loose ball in the Spurs penalty area.
Of Sunderland’s players, only Billy Jones and Lens made more sprints than Borini despite his early withdrawal, while none of the hosts’ starters completed a higher percentage of their passes, but overall Borini was ineffective on his return to the Stadium of Light.
However, Sunderland fans already know full well what the 24-year-old is capable of when fully fit, and if his return affords Defoe a run up front, Borini’s impact may be far greater than is obvious.
Son fails to shine on Tottenham debut
The day’s other debutant, Son, was far more involved but struggled no less to make a real impact in the final third as he got his first taste of English football.
Son was put straight on set-piece duty but, bar one dangerous inswinging free-kick in the 13th minute, failed to cause Sunderland too many problems with any of his efforts, even managing to play a short corner straight out for a throw-in just after the half-hour mark.
In open play he showed some nice touches and didn’t appear to struggle with the physicality, but anybody that has watched the South Korean previously will know he is capable of much more.
He avoided taking men on, preferring instead to play it simple, but still lost the ball four times and mis-kicked in front of goal just before half-time in a moment that summed up his afternoon.
However, there were fleeting moments when Son showed signs of his ability, with a slide-rule pass on the inside of Billy Jones just failing to set up a shooting chance for Ben Davies, and later a quick burst and pass finding Nacer Chadli just inside the penalty area. He sliced a shot well wide between those moments, but Spurs fans may still have seen enough to feel excited about the new £22million signing.
Ryan Mason’s goal was only his third for Tottenham in all competitions in 46 appearances, and his first on the road.
On home soil, Sunderland are without a victory in their last six PL meetings with Spurs, (D2 L4).
This was Tottenham’s first win of the 2015-16 Premier League campaign (D3 L1).
Sunderland have now gone 11 PL games without a win against Spurs (D3 L8), with their last top-flight win against the Lilywhites coming in April 2010 (3-1).
Sunderland have enjoyed just three wins in their last 18 home games in the PL, losing nine and drawing six.
The Lilywhites’ starting 11 had an average age of 24 y and 135d, the youngest in the Premier League so far this season.