Noroc means good luck in Romanian. It’s what Salut! Sunderland fervently wishes for our Costel at the Emirates…
Not many people give us much chance of snatching, at Arsenal, the point we may still need. Even Smoggie soured his recent charm offensive by putting us down for a 4-0 thumping tomorrow night, though he graciously added that we would survive all the same for what he hopes will be a couple of Premier, not Championship, derbies with Boro next season.
Guess the Score has produced the usual flurry of loyalty and forced optimism. And we do know Big Performances at the homes of Big Clubs are something we have been known to produce now and then.
So what, in reality, are the prospects?
West Brom’s thrashing of Chelsea and Arsenal’s own home defeat to Swansea both show the Premier still has the capacity to surprise even if both results somehow make our own task seem tougher.
It has not been a vintage season for English football and the gap between top and bottom sometimes narrows sufficiently for upstarts to pull off the great result. We did to Chelsea in 2010 what WBA did last night, but ours was all the more impressive because it happened at Stamford Bridge.
We have annoyed Arsene Wenger in the past, with results he clearly considered above our station and – admire him as I do – I sincerely hope the eloquent Alsacien is furious at a failure to win tomorrow night. Do I think it will happen? Probably not if I am honest, but then I love good surprises. And if we’re due one, it might come down to that factor one or two Guess the Score entrants have already suggested: the Costel Pantilimon man-of-the-match performance.
The others have to do their bit, too, and I have a sneaking feeling that if we get that point, making Sunday’s result unimportant and the afternoon in west London as much a party for our support as it will be for the champs, it is less likely to be goalless than a massively unexpected win or a scoring draw.
I explored the subject in my preview of the game for ESPN.
To see the full piece, go to http://www.espnfc.com/club/sunderland/366/blog/post/2457248/costel-pantilimon-could-be-sunderland-hero
See the full buildup – Who are You?, Guess the Score and Sixer’s view after Leicester by asy navigation of the homme page : salutsunderland.com
My theme was that our potential Emirates hero has risen from understudy to ever-present and done his job, for the most part, admirably. Here’s an extract, or rather a sequence that included a reference to Monty that ESPNFC chose to cut:
Pantilimon started the season on the bench and stayed there until Mannone had uncharacteristically poor games in the 8-0 humiliation at Southampton in October and, a week later, the 2-0 defeat at home to Wednesday’s opponents, Arsenal. He was hardly alone in having stinkers but paid a heavier price than most. The Romanian has generally proved a sound replacement, world-class saves at crucial moments far outweighing the occasional gaffes.
He is not necessarily the sort of keeper favoured by Jimmy Montgomery, hero of Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup win over Leeds United and still associated with the club. Whereas “Monty” preferred to go for the traditional diving save, Pantilimon will, like many modern keepers, use any part of his body to block, defect, parry or otherwise prevent ball hitting net.
His saves that ensured Sunderland wins at home to Southampton and then at Everton earlier this month exemplified this approach and also gave the latest survival bid its launch. Weaker moments seem to involve mix-ups with defenders but his command of the goalmouth is usually impressive and his distribution, initially poor, has improved a little.
The matchwinning moment could come at the other end. I’d be happy it came from Pants’s saves.
Ha’way the Lads … make Sunday a day of rest.