Top Ten: Sunderland's Greatest Comebacks

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As disappointing as it was to see Sunderland concede two appalling early goals on Saturday there was at least some spirit evident within the side which saw the lads claw their way back into the game and put right the originally mistakes. Yes it wasn't great and we should really be winning such games but we gave ourselves a mountain to climb and managed to claw something from a game that at one point looked lost.

So this got me thinking about other great comebacks. No not Take That Michael Graham, sorry. Games where SAFC have looked dead and buried before a spirited revival against the odds have seen the lads take a point or more from a match that seemed beyond them. 

Join me after the jump as I run through my favourite ten SAFC fightbacks...

10. Sunderland 1-1 Fulham: 27/10/07

Roy Keane's Sunderland had to fight back to earn a point at The Stadium of Light and in the end were disappointed not to claim the full three points. The game was fairly even until half an hour had passed. With the Sunderland defence expecting a ball into the area Simon Davies cheekily curled a great effort into the top corner from 30 yards, completely confusing SAFC with their freekick routine.

Fulham defended their lead well and Sunderland struggled to break down the visiting side. Matters were made worse for The Black Cats as the useless Greg Halford received his marching orders, a second yellow card just before the 70th minute for shirt pulling. Sunderland however rallied and bombarded Fulham with numerous attacks and were rewarded in the 85th minute when Kenwyne Jones converted Grant Leadbitter's left wing cross.

Fulham were able to hold on for the point and saw out the game despite SAFC's best efforts.

9. Sunderland 2-2 West Ham: 31/10/09

Despite starting the game well, with Darren Bent guilty of missing a chance from a Lorik Cana cross, it was the visitors that would take the lead when Jack Collison broke free of Sunderland's offside trap before sliding a perfectly measured cross for Franco to break the deadlock. Collison was industrious in the midfield for the Hammers and was again involved in the move for their second goal as he won possession, drove for goal and found team mate Carlton Cole who was left with a golden opportunity to double his sides lead, which he duly took. West Ham were fully in control and deserved their lead.

In fact it took West Ham to gift Sunderland a way back into the game when Kovac felled Malbranque on the edge of the area. A needless foul in a dangerous area. Andy Reid was to make the Londoners pay for the error as he curled a beautiful freekick up and over the wall past Robert Green. SAFC's chances of salvaging something from the game were dealt a blow when Kenwyne Jones saw red thanks to some histrionics from Herita Ilunga who hit the deck and rolled around a bit following a push by the centre forward.

Ten man Sunderland would not be beaten however and came out in the second half with a point to prove and took the game to West Ham and were duly rewarded ten minutes from time when a deflection took a Darren Bent cross away from Robert Green and allowed Kieran Richardson to bundle the ball home. In fairness Sunderland had the chances to win the game but were happy to salvage a point after playing for a long spell a man down.

8. West Brom 2-3 Sunderland: 18/10/98

A game that you may remember Chris Weatherspoon featured as part of his Roker Relives series here on Roker Report, so have an indepth read on this great comeback here.

The game saw SAFC sit second in the First Division after an impressive start to the season, unbeaten in the first eleven games. However two Lee Hughes goals would see WBA take a 2-0 lead into half time. A Peter Reid special at the break would kick start Sunderland into action, helped in no uncertain terms by Kevin Ball's determination to sort the mess out. Andy Melville and Michael Bridges brought the score level before the captain himself rifled home a volley to take all three points back to Roker.

7. Sunderland 2-1 Blackburn: 22/08/09

I may not be the biggest Lee Cattermole fan on the planet but the combative midfielder was instrumental in digging Sunderland out of trouble this August afternoon in 2009. Ironically it was the Teesider's mistake with a poor clearance that allowed Blackburn to take the lead through Gael Givet but Cattermole certainly made amends, firstly breaking up the play that allowed Malbranque to setup Jones before Lee himself would swing in a cross that allowed Kenwyne to double his tally with a powerful header.

6. Blackburn 1-2 Sunderland: 15/11/08

This clash with Blackburn has made my list because of the context of the game. Speculation was building at the time that Roy Keane was set to walk away from the club and odds on him being the next Premiership manager to vacate his position had been heavily slashed. With that said the travelling fans were in audible support of their gaffer creating a great atmosphere.

SAFC were coming into the game on the back of four consecutive defeats and this really should have been the fifth were it not for Blackburn's lack of composure in front of goal and Sunderland's determination to get something from the fixture. Chris Samba's managed to finally break the deadlock for the home side in stoppage time of the first half.

Keano's Sunderland came out in the second half with more purpose and an uncharacteristic mistake from Paul Robinson in the Blackburn net allowed Kenwyne Jones to fire home with an overhead kick. Reinvigorated, SAFC pushed forward and were rewarded when Steed set Cisse free and the Frenchman coolly finished with a deft chip over the keeper.

5. Sunderland 4-2 Wigan: 23/04/11

Sunderland finally ended a dismal run of nine games without a win but made the home fans sweat for the spoils. Despite having the better of the play the first half ended 0-0 with Wigan content on playing a counter attacking style. The gameplan paid off as the visitors took a shock lead through a wonder strike by Diame. SAFC fans began to get that sinking feeling. The home side rallied however and responded almost immediately, Gyan heading home a Malbranque cross, a vital, vital equaliser when you look back. Jordan Henderson and Sessegnon were instrumental in the Sunderland midfield and were both rewarded with goals, first Henderson with a well taken volley, before Sessegnon helped ease the pressure from the penalty spot. The young midfielder would go on to grab Sunderland's fourth and complete the impressive fightback and putting an end to an appalling run.

4. Arsenal 2-2 Sunderland: 30/12/00

 

 

Sunderland seemed to be out to hit the self-destruct button during a trip to Highbury and Thomas Sorensen, as expected, was put through his paces and helped keep the deficit within reach. The Gunners took just five minutes to take the lead when Patrick Vieira nodded home a Robert Pires corner and doubled their advantage just before half time through the prolific...erm... Lee Dixon who slotted home a Thierry Henry cross.

After fifteen minutes of the "Peter Reid" treatment SAFC came out with more purpose and were rewarded for their improved endeavour when Patrick Vieira handled in the area and Kevin Phillips converted the spot kick past Alex Manninger. Sunderland began to grow in confidence and had a number of opportunities to level the game but it was left to Gavin McCann to curl a 20 yard effort into the back of the net following some good work for Alex Rae to dispossess Vieira on the edge of the area.

The point was nothing less than the away side deserved for their second half efforts, although Arsene Wenger would be disappointed to see his title chasing side fail to deal with the pressure Sunderland applied.

3. Derby 1-1 Sunderland: 21/09/03

Most comebacks are thanks to some good honest hard work, with the team having to rally together, roll up their sleeves and be prepared to get their hands dirty. Some on the other hand can be total and utter smash and grabs but not usually courtesy of the goalkeeper! That is exactly what happened in September of 2003 when having gone a goal down in the 89th minute, bemoaning a serious of chances that the visitors failed to take advantage of. 

However having been awarded a cornerkick in the extra time, the Estonian goalkeeper signalled to his manager Mick McCarthy asking if he should go forward. What the hell thought the Yorkshire man. It proved to be a gamble worthwhile as Mart Poom's late run into the box caused confusion and the former Derby hero met Sean Thornton's corner with a towering header to seal an unlikely point.

2. Sunderland 2-2 West Brom: 01/10/11

Yes, it was only the other day but what an important fightback it was. The SAFC landscape may have looked a lot different had West Brom capitalised on their early lead. Boo's rang out around the ground as frustration given the turbulent start to the season took its toll on a large number of the fans in attendance.

Whatever side you have taken up in the Steve Bruce debate no-one wants to see their side lose in the hope it will see a manager given the boot. It is a negative mindset which is counter productive to the side. We support the team, not just the manager. For me this was proven on Saturday as despite the initial and understandable frustration both the fans and the team rallied. Not so much anything Bruce did but the players themselves reacted to the situation and got themselves out of trouble and maybe should have won the game in the end.

Whilst the Bruce debate will rage on there were some positives to take from the game and if you take only one of these plus points to try and remain positive, for me, it should be that the side did not roll over and give up but showed a lot of character and fight.

1. Sunderland 2-2 Newcastle: 05/02/00

The first Wear/Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light was always going to hold major significance but it remains a highlight for me as it showcased the heart and determination that Peter Reid had instilled in his side. Newcastle took the lead through the unlikely sources of Didier Domi and their on-loan defender Helder early in the game. what is it with the derby and weird goalscorers?

It was a massive kick in the teeth for SAFC to go 2-0 down in the early stages but the capacity crowd erupted in defiance and roared on the home side who quickly paid back the support when Kevin Phillips pulled a goal back just minutes after the Portugese defender had doubled NUFC's advantage.

The game remained 2-1 until the dying minutes, Sunderland unable to make their possession count until Kevin Phillips struck again, sneaking past Newcastle's offside trap and tapping home from a freekick. The Stadium roof nearly blew off such was the noise that greeted the equaliser. A roar that I will never forget. 

So, what are your favourite SAFC fightbacks from over the years, maybe some of the elder statesmen, like The Captain, have got some fond memories from games before I was even a twinkle in the old man's eye. Leave your suggestions in the comments and have a little vote in the poll. Ta.

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