Sunderland 2, Newcastle United 1
A LOT has changed in the world during the 28 years since Sunderland last beat their reviled rivals Newcastle United at home. Those who were there in 1980 have grown older and greyer, children have been born and raised, but this was finally the victory they all so badly craved.
Eventually the feats of 2008 will be passed down from father to son, from generation to generation, until the names of goalscorers Djibril Cisse and Kieran Richardson are as much a part of Wearside folklore as Stan Cummins and Gary Rowell. Another piece of derby history has been made.
Given the length of the barren years, some Black Cats supporters have had to wait a lifetime to see the Magpies beaten on Wearside, but, as everyone knows, the best things come to those who wait.
It proved too much for some to take, the thrill and excitement of the occasion regrettably turning a small group into the sort of snarling, brawling thugs who cannot resist souring the moment with violence.
Sunderland will be reprimanded by the Football Association for failing to control their supporters – there were three small, but separate pitch invasions – and Northumbria Police’s reaction to the trouble in the Newcastle end sparked by the final whistle will also be looked at.
But we should not let Sunderland’s finest moment in the Wear-Tyne derby for a generation be ruined by a few idiots who still think a football match is an excuse for a dust-up. Sunderland were billed as favourites in the pre-match build-up and they played like it on the day itself, taking the game to the Magpies from first whistle to last.
With the exception of a 15-minute spell before half-time, Sunderland were always the more threatening of the two sides and could, in the closing stages, have made this an even more comprehensive victory.
Newcastle may not have been stretched too often defensively, where the Argentina international centre-back Fabricio Coloccini was superb, but they struggled to find an offensive outlet and were penned back for extended periods with Obafemi Martins particularly poor, alongside Shola Ameobi, in attack.
With Damien Duff also largely nullified going forward, Nicky Butt and Danny Guthrie were forced to spend most of their time on the back foot to disrupt Sunderland’s adventure.
Roy Keane’s decision to start Dwight York was an astute one, the veteran Trinidad and Tobago international sitting in front of the back four as a protective shield with an eye for a killer pass.
Dean Whitehead was superb, relishing the physical tussle in the centre of midfield and allowing Richardson and Steed Malbranque to concentrate on trying to hurt the opposition going forward.
It worked beautifully in the 20th minute when Yorke executed a perfect Cryuff turn on the half-way line to wrong-foot Newcastle’s midfield.
He fed Pascal Chimbonda who moved the ball on to Malbranque.
The former Spurs man took advantage of the space in front of him to cut inside and although his cross to the unmarked Cisse was probably an attempted shot, his fellow Frenchman stabbed the ball home.
Having got in front, Sunderland handed the initiative to Newcastle, Ameobi deciding to shoot rather than square to the unmarked Duff, before both Geremi and Martins had efforts charged down by some frantic Sunderland defending.
Ameobi, though, was proving to be a problem and when the former England Under-21 international drew a foul from Chimbonda on the edge of the area, Anton Ferdinand lost him from the resulting free-kick and Ameobi headed Newcastle level at the far post.
If anything, Newcastle looked the stronger of the two sides as half-time approached and they should have gone in front on the hour mark when Ameobi, fed by Martins, shifted the ball on to his weaker left foot and shanked a shot from the edge of the area wide.
It proved to be pivotal as Sunderland, lifted by the introduction of Kenwyne Jones as a substitute for Yorke, went close through Cisse only for Shay Given to save at his feet after Coloccini had got enough on the ball to direct it closer to the goalkeeper.
Malbranque also went close with a volley but Sunderland’s winner eventually came.
El-Hadji Diouf was cynically tripped on the edge of the area by Butt as he went to collect a one-two from Jones and up stepped Richardson to lash a free-kick past Given.
Richardson had been desperately unlucky to have a similar free-kick ruled out for a foul against Fulham the previous weekend, and hit both posts with another effort in the same game.
Given the significance of this goal, in this of all games, his bad luck then was more than compensated for.
Whether this solitary success is a sign the battle for regional supremacy has shifted in Sunderland’s favour remains to be seen, but Newcastle have taken enough of a battering this season to cope with this one.