I’m not really sure where to start with this – quite possible one of the single most frustrating 90 minutes of football I’ve ever seen – or how to even contemplate how we’ve came out that game on the back of a 3-0 loss with our tail between our legs.
Even the most loyal (deluded?) SAFC fan cannot argue that we didn’t deserve more in that game; we were in complete control. I’ll grant you we didn’t look the most clinical of sides but it was inevitable that we would score against an incredibly poor and mismatched Sunderland side trying to ‘park the bus’ at home in a Wear-Tyne derby.
30 minutes in we’d had a massive 70% share of possession, 9 shots at goal (4 on target) and attempted 169 passes, in comparison to Sunderland’s 2 shots (0 on target) and 75 passes.
45+1 was the real turning point in this game, the point at which Robert Madley turned this from a football match into a declaration of his authority and petulance. I watched on with disbelief as Georginio Wijnaldum turned Lee Cattermole with a Dennis Bergkamp-like flick; ball to his left and spun to his right inside the box… Not only does Lee handle the ball with his left hand, but to make matters worse he simultaneously throws his right arm across Wijnaldum’s throat – player goes down. No hand ball, no foul, no penalty on either counts.
Granted, at this point I thought to myself “well, that’s football, sometimes you don’t get the decisions” yet within 30 seconds Sunderland were marauding up the pitch. Steven Fletcher is played in round the back when stand-in goalkeeper Elliot beats the player to the ball, at which point our captain – the voice of reason – what can only be described as rugby tackles Fletcher to the ground, inside the box. Penalty. Adam Johnson of all people steps up and dispatches the spot kick – the less said about this the better.
Already irate at both the stupidity of our captain at giving away such a needless penalty, and the referee’s calamitous decision only 30 seconds earlier, what do I hear? Cheers from the home fans – red card. Unbelievable. I can only assume the referee has constituted his foul a denial of a goal scoring opportunity; the referee being the only person in the ground to hold this view.
Half time passes and NUFC re-emerge with 10 men, even then we continue to dominate a completely lacklustre SAFC side that can’t even control possession against a 10-man side that’s just won their first game of the season 6 days prior.
It could’ve very easily been a different game had it not been for Pantilimon in goal for the home side, who made 2 outstanding saves against Mitrovic (at 1-0) and Wijnaldum (at 2-0), in total he faced a staggering 21 shots (8 on target) but still held onto his clean sheet against the side that netted 6 past Norwich last weekend. SAFC by contrast had only 3 shots on target all against the run of play, and netted 3 times.
Another worthy mention is a certain Lee Cattermole, the Englishman not only should’ve conceded a penalty for blatant cheating on 2 counts (hand ball & body check), injured Jack Colback with an unnecessary “challenge” from behind but actually conceded 4 fouls alone (excluding many more than went unpunished), 3 of which Robert Madley was seen presumably issuing his final warning; a strange one considering Tiote’s initial foul he employed the same tactics (’13) and booked him immediately after for a 2nd foul (’14). Double standards? Or just a referee way out of his depth.
In total Mr. Madley’s disciplinary issuing was as follows:
SAFC – 12 fouls, 0 yellow cards, 0 red.
NUFC – 7 fouls, 2 yellow cards, 1 red.
At 2-0 (Billy Jones, 65’) & 3-0 (Steven Fletcher, 86’) the game was all but dead and buried. Despite being scored against the run of play we continued to dominate but without reward.
3-0 was as far from a fair reflection of that game. Even with 10-men for half the game NUFC consistently dominated, this is clearly shown in the full-time stats (courtesy of WhoScored):
I like to think I’m man enough to admit the last 5 derbies SAFC have deserved to win, through pure desire and want they’ve been the better side. But today? No. Absolutely not – a total injustice that’s saw our 10 man side robbed against 11-man SAFC and Robert Madley.
Unfortunately we now find ourselves in the position where we’ve lost our 6th consecutive derby with a collective score of 13-1; this is the first time in history either side has won more than 5 consecutively. The reverse home fixture really can’t come quick enough.
On a positive note, the performance was pleasing (unlike the previous 5 no-shows under Alan Pardew and John Carver). I genuinely believe we’ve simply been the victim of misfortune today, and but for the referee we would’ve won that game comfortably.