Poyet’s incredible Sunderland revival continues with 3-0 win at Newcastle

SAFC Fans

SAFC Fans

Sunderland beat Newcastle 3-0 for the second time in nine months in a pulsating Tyne-Wear derby at St James’ Park.

The victory means Gus Poyet has won 11 from 23 games with a club who were bottom of the league and without a win in seven matches when he took charge.

A first half penalty from Fabio Borini and a close-range effort from Adam Johnson gave Sunderland a half-time lead, while Jack Colback scored late in the second half.

A frantic first half was dominated in the early stages by the away side, who were better in possession and played with an urgency that Newcastle failed to deal with.

Newcastle did have opportunities wasted in good areas – both through Davide Santon – and they gifted Sunderland an opening on 18 minutes. A clumsy tackle from Vernon Anita on Phil Bardsley gave Borini the chance to put Sunderland in the lead, and the Italian duly smashed home.

The well-taken penalty into Tim Krul’s top right was Borini’s second goal in a Tyne-Wear derby since joining Sunderland on loan in September.

With St James’ Park agitated, Sunderland continued to push and probe and, within five minutes of Borini’s opener, had doubled their lead. Krul parried Colback’s shot across goal into the path of Johnson, who finished from four yards for his sixth goal in his last five games.

Jozy Altidore played a key role in the build-up to Sunderland’s second, perfectly executing a flick into the path of the on-running Colback, and the American was outstanding for Sunderland in the first half – holding up play, frustrating and bustling his way through a Newcastle defence that could not handle him.

Conversely, Sunderland dealt with the minimal threat of Shola Ameobi with ease. The home side were largely limited to shots from range, and even then they were not given the time or space for pot-shots. Hatem Ben Arfa tried and failed, repeatedly, to wriggle his way through a stubborn Sunderland defence, while Sammy Ameobi was the least effective player on the pitch.

The big openings that Newcastle had in the first half came after some rare patient build-up across the penalty area. Shola Ameobi’s attempted turn and shot was eventually mopped up by Bardsley while, with half-time looming, Ben Arfa had the chance to place the ball across but chose to smash it out for a throw-in instead.

Sunderland were better in every position in the opening 45 so it was hardly surprising when Alan Pardew made a change at half-time. Loan signing Luuk De Jong even had the first chance after the break, shooting tamely straight at Vito Mannone.

Sunderland continued to have the upper hand on their biggest rivals but actually seemed able to take the foot off the gas a little.

Phil Bardsley, particularly, starred for Sunderland, containing Ben Arfa again and again. Johnson was also a stand-out player, and at one point the Wearside-born winger jinked his way around three Newcastle defenders and fired a fierce shot against the post. Johnson is, surely, now firmly in the thoughts of England manager Roy Hodgson.

Chieck Tiote did go close for Newcastle but his shot was acrobatically saved by Mannone. And it was Sunderland academy product Colback who completed the scoring and topped off a fine afternoon for the midfielder, brilliantly placing the ball into the top corner from 10 yards.

Sunderland closed the game out with ease, with Newcastle offering little, but the Wearside team were outstanding from the first whistle. The changes that Poyet has brought in have been resoundingly successful, making further mockery of Paolo Di Canio’s disparaging remarks about the club and certain players earlier this week.

Difficult characters have, seemingly, been turned around, while players like Johnson and Ki-Sun Yeung are thriving. In Colback, Ki and new signing Liam Bridcutt – who was brilliant on his debut in such a testing fixture – Sunderland have a midfield packed with creativity, poise and hard work.

They play with a similar urgency and directness as they always have but there’s now an added precision and zip in their play. To simply get the results that Poyet has gained as Sunderland boss would be remarkable but do it in such style shows a much more shrewd approach to management than the previous manager.

While Newcastle look like enduring a tough last four months to the season with a beleaguered and tepid squad, Sunderland are now mid-table and, currently, look like a side capable of rising higher still.

Team GB, Football & the Olympics

London 2012 is over and, with it, comes the debate over Great Britain’s participation in future Football events.

For all the pre-tournament scepticism, lack of preparation time and the inevitable defeat on penalties in the quarter-finals, the Team GB Men’s football side acquitted themselves very well at the Olympics.  Continue reading

Cahill & Rodwell gone: the time is now for Everton’s Ross Barkley

With the departures of Tim Cahill and Jack Rodwell, midfielder Ross Barkley – one of the many exciting young English talents in the Premier League this season – now has the chance to forge himself a regular starting spot at Everton. Continue reading

Manchester City win 2012 Community Shield

Manchester City came from behind and withheld late pressure from Chelsea as they claimed their first silverware of the 2012/13 season thanks to goals from Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri.

Chelsea had taken the lead through Fernando Torres just before half-time but a blistering second half blew them away, a late Ryan Bertrand goal merely a consolation in an enthralling start to the new football season.  Continue reading

Is this the season English youngsters break into the Premier League?

The inquest into English youth football has been going on for some time now and, this season, it looks as if players previously on the fringes could be about to get their chance in a league that is more of a global league more than the English Premier League. Continue reading

Errors and exciting talent make for excellent start to Euro 2012

Day one of Euro 2012 was packed full with entertainment, with Poland throwing away first half dominance to draw with Greece, and Russia powering past Czech Republic in what was a cracking start to Group A, a group which so many predicted to be boring and lifeless.


Russia’s Alan ‘Player To Watch’ Dzagoev was the headline grabber, scoring with two cracking finishes against Czech Republic. He did miss a sitter at one point and was outshone by the superb Andrei Arshavin and the dominant Zenit-based midfield, but it was a fantastic start to a tournament where Dzagoev is expected to shine.

Russia took advantage of some slack Czech defending throughout the game, exploiting the gaps with great fluidity and speed of movement. Czech left-back Michal Kadlec was hideous out of position a lot of the time but most pointedly for Russia’s second goal, Roman Shirokov somehow able to stroll into the six yard box unmarked and deftly chip over Petr Cech.
The Chelsea goalkeeper should have come out quicker and stronger but he was left hideously exposed by a wayward defence. When Dzagoev smashed in his second, Cech should have stood up to the shot and Russia’s fourth should have been met with similar composure, Roman Pavlyuchenko powering past defenders with great ease and firing past Cech. It was a poor day for a world-class goalkeeper, but there is the slight saving grace that it wasn’t the worst goalkeeping performance of the day.
Wojciech Szczesny is an ‘outspoken’ character, in that when he speaks he says something of interest and he’s actually a character in a game packed with PR-tuned robots. But being so verbose gives the critics an immediate stand-point and, when mistakes are made, sympathy is hard to come by.
So when the Arsenal goalkeeper horribly misread a cross to allow Dimitris Salpigidis to equalise, and later conceded the penalty that Przemyslaw Tyton brilliant saved, howls of derision could be heard from the realms of Twitter where Szczesny has so often annoyed and overjoyed so many at the same time.
The penalty was particularly poor decision-making from Szczesny; to come out that quick and misread the speed of the move like that is bad enough but to then leave a leg trailing, giving a player the open pass to go down inside the area, is sheer lunacy.
But it came in on a day filled with mistakes and errors from all sides. Carlos Velasco Carballo, the referee for the Poland-Greece opener, started off well, dealing with robust tackles in a firm and authoritative way, but then descended into card-happy territory. The sending off of Sokratis Papastathopoulos was incredibly harsh seen as his first booking wasn’t even a foul and his second was a dubious yellow. Howard Webb, in the second game, was much better and wasn’t actually forced to get his cards out of his pocket at any point.
Aside from that, Sotiris Ninis – another player tipped to have an impressive performance – had a stinker, summed up by his attempted backheel to a teammate who was 5 yards away and not looking to move in that direction. Georgios Samaras was dreadful and served little purpose out on the wing for Greece other than to helpfully give the ball back to Poland, while Aleksandr Kerzhakov seemed to want to hit shots wide rather than go for the easier option and just score.
But from the ridiculous errors we went to the sublime football. Vaclav Pilar’s rounding of the goalkeeper and superb finish from Plasil’s majestic pass was a highlight of day one, while the tirelessly excellent Arshavin sent a warning out to the rest of Europe: he’s back.
We almost had an early contender for goal of the tournament too, but Theodore Gebre Selassie’s Van Basten effort hit the side netting.
It was the perfect tonic: the bad and the brilliant of football all wrapped up in one day. The defending wasn’t good enough to make the game too tight but, at the same time, it wasn’t a laughable shambles. Both games were open and all four sides had their periods of domination – as a neutral, it really doesn’t get much better than that.
Apart from, of course, some controversial red cards, some goalkeeping errors and an erratic refereeing performance that all, frankly, added to the entertainment. No pressure, Group B.