On Salut! Sunderland‘s birthday – the codger whose name appears at the end of this report, not the site – a riproaring second-half performance crowned by a Darren Bent penalty deep in stoppage time brought a sensational victory.
Made to look second best in the first half, and deprived by nasty injuries of Michael Turner and Fraizer Campbell at the break, we went on to play such lively and threatening football that anything less than one point would have been a travesty.
And for sheer spirit and persistence against a team that expects top four status as of right, it was a win entirely merited.
In the first half, it had seemed that any thought that Sunderland could stand in the way of City’s ambitions was purely fanciful, such was the apparent gap in class.
We preserved level pegging only because of one astonishing miss by Carlos Tevez, a second less wretched miss by the same player (give Michael Turner credit for the block) and a desperate last-gasp save by Mignolet from Toure.
At the other end? Well, there hadn’t been much of an other end really, if you overlook one shot by Henderson, well wide. As the half ended with Turner hobbling and Campbell on a stretcher, it seemed rational to fear for the worst after the break.
But we had played well in patches, notably with robust defending and intelligent passing in midfield.
As the second half began, with Welbeck and Bardsley on for our casualties, the passion and verve of our play made a mockery of City’s early dominance and that difference of quality.
On my intermittent stream, Al Muhammadi and – making up for a couple of earlier lapses that neatly led to goals – Richardson had storming second halves. The reshaped defence played a collective blinder. And Mignolet produced a world-class save at 0-0.
Salut! Sunderland is off to celebrate heartily in the south of France. What a fabulous way to get our season properly started.
And we know we should have listened, when feeling gloomy at half time, to the wiser counsel of Pete Sixsmith – see his Sixer’s Sevens verdict by clicking here – whose text message from the East Stand had read: “Hanging on but playing well.”