No beachball to win us the game. No long-distance McCallister dive to claim them a draw. Just a solid, hard-working but full deserved victory for the better side.
This was Michael Goulding at the Blackcats list: “I have always liked Liverpool and used to think Dalglish was the dog’s bollocks. I lost respect during the Suarez affair (as has half the country, by the sound of things) and his buying record and current form are akin to previously sacked Liverpool managers like Souness, Roy Evans, etc. Roy Hodgson got sacked without losing three league games in a
row (which Dalglish has just done). My good Liverpool-supporting mate went to Wembley the other week and says it was just papering over the cracks.”
And this is Pete Sixsmith with a magisterial assessment of the game, the BBC’s deranged priorities and the current state of two great clubs …
On a day of controversy in the Premier League, little time or space was given to one of those things that may be becoming a regular occurrence – Sunderland beating Liverpool.
At Bolton, a place so cold that polar bears were sat next to a continually moaning Alan “Greeny” Green, an assistant referee called Mr Pollock (a fishy character, if you ask me) failed to see a header from Clint Hill cross the line before the Bolton keeper clawed it out. Those of a long memory may remember Clint as the Tranmere player who was sent off against us in 2000, leading to John Aldridge sneaking a sub on for the last few minutes. What goes around, comes around, Clint. Go ahead, make my day.
QPR lost and slid into the relegation zone where many of us hope that they will stay, thus sparing at least one of the triumvirate of Lancashire clubs from relegation and ensuring that we get a decent day out, with lots of tickets at a fair price.
Then, something so astounding that front pages were held, commentators were stunned and the earth stopped revolving on its axis. Tony Pulis admitted that one of his Stoke City players was correctly sent off. Ricardo Fuller’s full blooded stamp on Branislav Ivanovic was so obvious that even the usually myopic Pulis could not blame it on the Serbian for diving, falling or doing a triple cartwheel in order to get his man dismissed.
Elsewhere, Wolves showed the folly of promoting from within by losing to Blackburn, Everton survived a second half bombardment by Harry’s Boys to finish the White Hart Lane title challenge and show Good Old ‘Arry in his true colours as he almost wrenched the microphone from the reporters hand and stuck it where the sun don’t shine in his MOTD interview.
Oh, and Villa won at home (a collector’s item) and the few Villa fans there booed Alex McLeish (not a collector’s item).
While all this was going on, Sunderland managed to beat Liverpool, something regarded as so inconsequential that the BBC allocated seven minutes of it to their flagship football programme – a flagship that is more and more beginning to resemble the Costa Concordia as it limps along.
My youngest brother, at one time a Liverpool fan, has neatly analysed the timings, for which I am grateful. The commentary from one Simon Brotherton is so Liverpool top heavy that it would cause any ship to sink. According to him, when Suarez runs at you, your defence can do little else but have a fit of the vapours and allow him to score. In fact, the cheery little Uruguayan spent most of the second half retrieving the ball from the South West Corner, where he had allowed it to run out.
Enough of linguistically challenged South Americans with their misunderstood descriptions of black people; he was only a side show in a competent performance from Sunderland that saw a fully merited win against a distinctly average Liverpool side, obviously still exhausted after their magnificent Carling Cup victory on penalties over a Championship side.
There were a few talking points that emerged from this game, but none which will linger as long as the earnest discussions that Sunderland supporters have had with Our Friends from the North this week and which are clearly destined to last until the next opportunity arises for Sports Direct hoardings to be scattered to the four winds
The major one is how relatively easy it was for a Sunderland side missing three important players to overcome a Liverpool side that appeared to be at full strength apart from Daniel Agger. And straightforward it was. Our back four held them well, with Bellamy posing the only threat. O’Shea and Turner were strong and held the line well and I thought Wayne Bridge did well at full back.
The midfield was full of artisans – Gardner and Colback against Adam and Spearing and no doubt which pairing was the better here. Colback grew into the game and it was his run and ball that put Fraizer Campbell in for the goal, while Gardner looked very comfortable in his more forward role. Spearing was anonymous and looked a step away from a loan move to Preston, while Adam just ran around clattering into Sunderland players, for which he did not receive a yellow card and gave the appearance of being a one-season wonder.
On the flanks we had Larsson and McClean, who worked and worked and worked. I don’t think Larsson ever stops. He covers Bardsley, moves inside to tighten up the centre, gets forward with some lung bursting runs and speaks English far better than most people I know, including me.
McClean was effective at times and helped Bridge through the opening phase of the game. Compared with Adam and poor Jordan Henderson, he looked an absolute bargain.
That we won was down to a togetherness that was evident in the goal. Colback won the ball, moved forward and gave a lovely short pass to Campbell. He turned the ponderous and occasionally brutal Skrtl (if you think I am being unfair, check his tackle on Bendtner near the end) and hit the post with a cracking shot. We had a smidgeon of luck when it hit Reina’s head, but Bendtner reacted far quicker than any Liverpool defender and rattled it in. No beach ball needed this time …
After that, they huffed and puffed, but did not create a single goal scoring opportunity. Andy Carroll, the poor man’s Kevin Kyle, arrived and did nothing, as did an increasingly overweight Stevie G. He ran around a lot and that’s being kind to him.
We, on the other hand, brought on David Vaughan, who played a vital part in the last 15 minutes by making a series of astute tackles and interceptions and carrying the ball away from our penalty area. A good player to have up your sleeve and used perfectly by O’Neill.
So, three valuable points that probably ensure our Premier League place for next season and take us to the dizzy heights of eighth with the possibility of kicking on from there. The squad is strong – we had Cattermole, Sessegnon, Richardson and Brown out, all regulars when fit – and we beat another team the media persist in calling top four contenders. We know we are not scintillating to watch (we’ll leave that to Athletic Bilbao), but the organisation and self-belief is such that we are able to compete effectively with sides who are, allegedly, better than us.
Hopefully, Bendtner’s injury will not be serious and he will be available for next week. Many thought that he had an excellent game, holding the ball up and bringing players into the game. Those that didn’t should take a long look at themselves. His absence next week would leave a big hole in the team.
We go to Everton buoyed by a solid if unspectacular win. I would happily settle for the same next week. Maybe ITV will be a little kinder than the Beeb.