On top but wobbly. That was the essence of the text messages from the Stadium of Light. Great to secure three points, but television replays show just how wobbly it was …
Salut! Sunderland rattles on week after week about cheating and is among the first to whinge when appalling decisions cost Sunderland points.
Arsenal fans, some of them, came here in self-righteous indignation when, week after week, we asked opposing fans in our Who Are You? feature the Eduardo Question – essentially are you ashamed when one of yours cheats? Our questionnaire before each game still includes a question on the same subject.
But we cannot have it both ways, and we don’t.
We say we want to be consistent and deplore all that is wrong in football wherever it comes from. There aren’t too many things more wrong than seeing a goalbound header saved beneath the bar by a defender’s arm, with no more than a corner resulting.
No one can say how the game would have ended if Cattermole’s handball had also been clear to Martin Atkinson or his linesman. There would have been yet another red card for him, a probable equaliser and a tough old finish for us. But that is what should have faced us the moment Cattermole stopped Kenwyne’s header.
It is not cheating in the sense that diving, feigning injury or trying to get opponents booked or dismissed is cheating. It was not exactly a Suarez impersonation. But arm stopped goal, certainly cheating Stoke City, and it ought to have brought appropriate consequences. Cattermole said he was driven by “total instinct” and had no idea whether it was head, post or arm that made the save; TV showed he used his arm at least once, maybe twice, and Steve Bruce made no bones about it.
At the Stadium of Light it didn’t bring those appropriate consequences, and football is therefore poorer.
Sorry if that sounds disloyal to Sunderland; I am thrilled that Asamoah Gyan went on to get his second goal of the game and delighted that we won three points.
We were almost certainly good overall value for the victory. And I know how often we have been on the receiving end of refereeing injustice that has cost us points. The same referee once presided over a 5-0 drubbing of a Keano SAFC at Stamford Bridge in which the first three goals were all arguably offside; I do not say we would have avoided defeat in any case on that day but we have lost many points through other bad calls by officials.
I will defer to the considered view of Pete Sixsmith when he turns his more detailed attentions to the game. But wild horses cannot drag from me complete satisfaction with the way we won.