It looked like a resilient and well organised Sunderland would walk away with all three points from a tense and tetchy Tyne Wear derby until Shola Ameobi popped up at the back post with an injury time equaliser, levelling the match and earning the Toon Army a share of the spoils.
Nine yellow cards and a straight red (plus a red for Cattermole after the final whistle) tells the tale of a game full of aggression and at times spite and revenge. None so more than when Sessegnon took offence to Toite’s close attentions and swung his arm back catching his opponent on the chin, it was a ridiculous thing to do and without him on the pitch Sunderland were toothless in attack, sat back and hoped to cling on for the remaining thirty three minutes – They came within four minutes of achieving this through a magnificent rear guard action and a huge slice of luck when Ba saw his penalty turned away by the rock solid Mignolet. However Pardew’s men weren’t going to be denied a well earned point, and Ameobi found himself in the right place and at the right time to slot home the equaliser.
Newcastle dominated the second half, creating many half chances but each seemingly not quite clear cut enough to muster anything meaningful, with most falling to a player on the edge of the area to either fire high, wide or both. As much as Sessegnon’s sending off was a huge turning point in a match, the introduction of Frazer Campbell and Shola Ameobi by their managers in the 71st minute was nearly more significant. In the 82nd minute a corner broke to Ameobi who jinked past Colbeck before Campbell recklessly slid in and took out the Newcastle United man for the clearest penalty anyone will see this season. However Ba’s spot kick was saved brilliantly by Mignolet who guessed right and dived low to his left before getting a firm hand to the ball and pushing it away – It looked like it just wasn’t going to be the Toon Army’s day who despite being well on top couldn’t get the break they deserved.
The first half had been a stark contrast to the second though and although the Newcastle United faithful would have felt aggrieved should they not have grabbed such a dramatic late equaliser, they could count themselves lucky to have still been in the game after a poor first half showing in which Sunderland were comfortably the better team. Much of the action was interrupted by a succession of poor tackles starting as early as the 2nd minute when Cattermole was booked for an awful tackle on Tiote that may have warranted a red, and saw McClean and Simpson squaring up to each other with the rest of the players surrounding them in what threatened to break out in to a mass melee. However Sunderland were well organised and picked off Newcastle’s attacks with ease before hitting them on the break. In the 22nd minute yet another terrible tackle (this time by Demba Ba) resulted in a free kick and Turner and Williams wrestling for the ball in the penalty area, with the latter having a handful of Sunderland shirt and being adjudged to have impeded the opposing player. It seemed a bit harsh, but referees have clamped down on this type of thing this season and it’s not the first time a penalty has been given for something that seemingly goes on in the box all the time – however this one was maybe just a little too blatant for the referee to ignore.
Up stepped the much maligned Bendtner to slot home only his 2nd goal in 14 matches despite Krul guessing the right way, the ball placed perfectly out of the Dutchman’s reach. The goal seemed to do wonders for the big Dane’s confidence as 10 minutes later he took the ball on his chest before turning brilliantly and hitting an excellent half volley from the edge of the area which Krul palmed away at full stretch.
It took Pardew’s men until the 38th minute before they created anything meaningful with Coloccini’s far post header comfortably parried away by Mignolet, however in the 43rd minute a terrible Taylor corner was followed from the other side by a perfect low powerful driven ball that saw Ba crash a header off the bar and away with the keeper beaten.
Pardew would have been delighted to get his team in at half time and give them the rocket they needed, and judging by their second half performance not a single player left the dressing room without their ears ringing with his discontent, and despite it being a last gasp equaliser few could say they didn’t deserve it. Whereas Sunderland fans will be left to reflect on what could have been should Sessegnon have not lost his head and leashed out, leaving his team a man down against a Newcastle United team that had started the second half with much more purpose and hunger than in the first.
Overall a draw seems a fair result but I’m not sure either team will be happy with the point, both feeling that the chance to win it was there for them to take, but neither quite having the cutting edge required to break down the opposition and walk away with all 3 points – and more importantly the local bragging rights.
Many thanks to Gary Marriner for supplying a great pic for this article.