Relegation looms for Silva and Hull after defeat to Moyes' Sunderland
HULL, England -- This was supposed to be the day when David Moyes, Sunderland's relegated relic of a manager, was shown up by Hull City's Marco Silva, the brightest young boss on the block.
However, football rarely follows such linear narratives, and especially not in the relegation battle and, instead, previously moribund, hopeless Sunderland held their hosts at bay and the snatched two goals that may well doom Hull to join them in the Championship.
"We're going to win our game I think, my worry is how many goals," Hull striker Oumar Niasse had said this week, a comment that might register as one of the most ill-judged of the season, especially considering the Everton loanee's performance in the 2-0 defeat.
Niasse and his teammates lost their composure and, after Swansea's 1-0 defeat of Everton, perhaps the club's Premier League status. The striker's inept skew of a decent chance, as Hull chased an equaliser, was symbolic of a panicky, rushed performance.
"Ultimately there was big tension in some of the team," admitted Silva after the game. "We needed to be calm in some moments."
Hull began the match hurriedly and finished it in desperation after Billy Jones, in the 69th minute, had headed in only his second Sunderland goal. Jermain Defoe doubled the lead when he scored in the last minute after a Seb Larsson free kick fell to him.
The main reason for Hull's folly at the other end was Jordan Pickford, who gave a goalkeeping performance of a level that makes the £17 million price, which Everton have reportedly agreed to pay for his services, look like a positive bargain. Not that Moyes is ready to let the 23-year-old go.
"He's under contract to us and that's the big thing," said the Sunderland manager. "I saw some rubbish figures talked about in the papers today; whoever came up with those is completely wrong."
That Pickford will be a Premier League player next season seems to be in little doubt, though, since Sunderland almost definitely need to sell. This week, the club announced a pre-tax loss of £33 million in 2015-16 and that's before the cost of this season's relegation is brought into account.
Pickford and Didier Ndong, outstanding in midfield at the KCom Stadium, are just about the only bankable assets that Sunderland possess, while Jermain Defoe, who has a relegation clause in his contract, is also likely to move on.
What remains must be a squad capable of repeating Newcastle's immediate bounce-back to the Premier League if complete disaster is to be averted; whether Moyes will be given the chance to build that new team remains a live question.
Friday afternoon's headlines declared that he will be asked to stay on by owner Ellis Short but the manager himself has been somewhat more non-committal and has admitted he has still to talk properly with the club's owner. Further, if Moyes does stay, it will not be with the blessing of many Sunderland fans.
"We want Moysie out," away supporters had sung in the early stages, in sharp contrast to Hull followers hailing a manager who has supplied hope where previously there had been none. "We've got Marco Silva," they sang, though his future is just as muddied as that of Moyes.
In the past week, the 39-year-old Silva, whose contract runs only to the end of the season, has been linked with potentially vacant positions as Southampton and West Ham, but relegation might significantly reduce his cachet. Losing to Sunderland meant the surrender of his own 41-game home unbeaten streak in management, with the loss somewhat embarrassing given the opposition had nothing to play for. "My home record is not important," Silva said. "What is important is that the result today was not good for us. We didn't play well. For me it's clear."
It may concern him that his team so badly lost shape when momentum began to go against them. Sam Clucas and Kamil Grosicki were busy and creative in midfield but strikers Niasse and Abel Hernandez were guilty of poor, snatched finishes. Alfred N'Diaye, too, missed a glorious opportunity when the score was 0-0.
Pickford's imperiousness began to psyche out Hull and quieten the home crowd. Ten minutes before Jones opening the scoring, the Sunderland goalkeeper's full-length save of a Lazar Markovic header denied Hull the best chance that came their way.
Once the away side went ahead, home heads were lost as Silva's players began to embroil themselves in their opponents' time-wasting antics. The defeat left Hull hoping for good tidings from South Wales later in the day, but they did not arrive; having beaten Everton 1-0, Swansea are now a point ahead of Hull and have nominally kinder fixtures to come.
Next week, Hull travel to Crystal Palace, themselves not quite out of the relegation woods after being beaten 5-0 by Manchester City. On the season's final day, Hull must hope Tottenham stage a repeat of last season's 5-1 capitulation to Newcastle after their title dreams were extinguished. Swansea, meanwhile, visit Sunderland before hosting West Brom in their final game.
From being in a position to plot their own destiny, Hull have been left to rely on the benevolence of others, just as Sunderland supplied Swansea a huge favour. And should the worst happen for the Yorkshire club, relegation could tarnish the reputation of Silva, just as it has that of Moyes.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.