After Sunderland’s 3-0 demolition of Newcastle, all the focus was on the Magpies. Michael Graham gives the Black Cats some overdue credit.
Sunderland won their first league game of the season this weekend, but you’d be excused for thinking they didn’t given the media coverage of the Tyne and Wear derby.
To pick up a newspaper you’d think Sam Allardyce’s men absolutely stole three points against a brilliant Newcastle team – one who have been entrenched in the bottom three all season and were never, at any point of this game, leading.
The clear message has been that Newcastle’s fine first-half performance made them irrevocably the better side and an away win a mere formality. Really?
That’s a team who have picked up just five points away from home from the last 48 on offer, a total that even relegated duo Burnley and QPR can better in the last year even though they haven’t played a Premier League game since May.
It’s also a team who’s manager, earlier this month, admitted there was a mental fragility at the club that was making them habitually perform well in 45 minute spells before failing to maintain it.
“I’ve seen two 45 minutes of what I want to see from this team,” Steve McClaren admitted after seeing a 1-1 half time stalemate at Manchester City become a 6-1 drubbing by full time.
“Then I’ve also seen 45 minutes of what can happen if we don’t do that. It’s easy to say, but it’s damned hard to do – we just need to do that for 95 minutes.”
This is a team we are supposed to believe were a sure thing to routinely turn a good 45 minutes into a dominant away victory?
The one in the relegation zone with one win all season, an atrocious away record, and a habit of driving their own recently-appointed manager mad with their failure to translate a good half into a good result? That team?
Much of this is based upon a sense of injustice that Fabricio Coloccini should not have been sent off for his challenge on Steven Fletcher on the brink of half time. I’d definitely agree the referee got that particular decision wrong. The FA made the right decision in overturning it.
However, even if he had got it right, Newcastle still would have gone in at half time a goal down. Had Coloccini received just a yellow card, or no card at all, Newcastle would have still failed to turn a dominant 45 minutes into a single goal, a lead, or even a clean sheet.
From a Sunderland point of view, the first-half performance was especially poor. It was nervy and fans inside the ground were frustrated at the time on the ball, space and territory that was being surrendered to their rivals. It wasn’t particularly encouraging viewing for any game, but in a derby played on home soil it was borderline sacrilege.
It’s not like Newcastle missed glorious chance after glorious chance, though. Half chances, certainly, but take the game as a whole, and, for all talk of how much ‘better’ Newcastle were, the moments of real quality came from the team in red and white.
Jermain Defoe’s pass that prompted Coloccini to give away the penalty was a more incisive piece of football than any Newcastle player could produce in their ‘dominant’ first half.
After the break, Yann M’Vila’s volley to allow Billy Jones to score the second was dripping with quality, and the third goal in general was a superb piece of counter-attacking football. It’s also worth remembering that aside from Sunderland’s three goals, the closest either team came to scoring was when Adam Johnson rattled the Newcastle bar.
So, yes, if you want to ignore that Newcastle conceded all of the goals and Sunderland produced pretty much all of the real quality, then listen to the Magpies’ veritable concerto of violins and declare the result a blatant case of daylight robbery.
However, here in the real world, the one where a 3-0 win tends to ultimately be a fairly convincing reflection of who deserves to take three points from a football match, there really isn’t that much to see at all.
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