Sunderland 4-2 Wigan Athletic (H)

For those of you who remember the TV series "Premier Passions", you'll recall a Sunderland fan screaming "BRILLIANT! BRILLIANT! BRILLIANT!"... I certainly evoked that line today, as we finally, finally, got back to winning ways.

I'd have took the "scrappy 1-0 win" I predicted before kick off, but this is just even better. No need to complain or moan, lets just crack on with reporting about a highly eventful game which saw it all go horribly wrong, but then so gloriously right.

It's finally time to talk about a Sunderland win. I'd almost forgot what this feeling is like...

Steve Bruce kept faith with the same starting line-up which did well, but ultimately failed at Birmingham City. This included a start for Danny Welbeck, who earlier in the week was diagnosed as being out for a few weeks. Welbeck however passed a pre-match fitness test, so into the line-up he went.

The game started off it's natural way, with injuries. This time a worrying one too, as Player Of The Year in waiting Phil Bardsley clashed heads with Nedum Onuoha. It didn't look too bad at first as Onuoha rubbed his head a bit and wandered off, though Bardsley lay flat out on the ground. On came the stretcher, then the oxygen mask came out, and a stunned Stadium Of Light rung out a chorus of "There's Only One Phil Bardsley" as the Scottish International made way from the pitch. Luckily, it appears post-match that Bardsley is ok having been taken to hospital for a check-up. Anton Ferdinand came on to replace him at left-back.

After a 6-7 minute delay, we were back in the action, and we were actually doing alright. plenty of pressing, lots of attacking verve, racking up the corners but sadly little end product.

After 25 minutes, the injury jinx struck once again. Danny Welbeck, feeling the affects of the afore mentioned hamstring injury sat down to force a halt in play, and was replaced by Steed Malbranque. Down now to one striker. Good lord could this get any worse? Well you know what happens later...

In the mean time, Stephane Sessegnon was pushed into attack with Asamoah Gyan.

Wigan Athletic got their first strike at goal on the half hour. Lee Cattermole pissing about on the edge of his own area lost the ball to Hugo Rodallega, who's powerful drive stung the palms of Simon Mignolet, who parried the ball wide. The resulting corner came to nothing.

As half time drew nearer, SAFC remained ahead on points I'd say. Gyan fumbling around with the ball to waste a decent opportunity, and Jack Colback not getting his ginger bonce on the end of Ahmed Elmohamady's cross, and we could have headed into the dressing room feeling much better than we did at 0-0.

Sunderland came flying out the traps to start the second period, more pressure, more corners but unfortunately no end product. Was this to be "one of them days" ? It certainly felt that way a few moments later.

Mohamed Diame scored a peach against us last season, and up he popped to do it once again to put the visitors 1-0 up. Collecting the ball 30 yards from goal, the midfielder powered an unstoppable drive high into the net beyond the diving Mignolet. Nothing the keeper could have done about it, and you started to wonder for our season.

Wonder no more, we're back in it only 4 minutes later! Asamoah Gyan with a free header to make it 1-1. A poor free-kick from Henderson eventually made it's way to substitute Steed Malbranque, who's hanging cross was nodded in by the Ghanaian hit-man. No time for dancing though as Gyan promptly picked up the ball and returned to the half way line.

Thoroughly deserved I felt, as we were playing well enough to not warrant being a goal behind.

With the fans in high spirts, and the players even higher, a long ball was lofted towards Asamoah Gyan. As he ran with Antolin Alcaraz, Gyan pulled up. Hamstring. A collective groan around the Stadium Of Light, and a million prayers being said. Unfortunately they were not answered, and the striker was forced to leave the action on a stretcher. The striker replaced by fellow countryman Sulley Muntari, another re-shuffle forced Stephane Sessegnon to take up the lone striking role, and you wondered if with no strikers we were even gonna get a draw from the game.

Such is the roller coaster of supporting SAFC, nothing is ever as it seems, and I think every single supporter was relieved to see Jordan Henderson smash the ball into the roof of the net left-footed to give us the lead on 65 minutes.

Muntari's ball played into Henderson who controlled with the chest. The ball escaped him a little, but his determination saw him react quicker than any Wigan defender and he powered home to send the fans into a delirious state.

2-1 up, and a massive 25 minutes ahead for our boys. Season defining almost. could we hold on and get the much needed victory with no strikers? Or would we slip away as we have been prone to do over the last few months?

Step in Lee Probert to settle the nerves. The referee, who had a shocker against us down at Stoke City, pointed to the spot in the 71st minute when Stephane Sessegnon was bundled off the ball by Gary Caldwell. Up stepped the man from Benin to send goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi the wrong way, 3-1 Sunderland, but still not totalling up the poultry.

Another five minutes passed, and we were treated to the icing on the cake. Jordan Henderson grabbing a second goal as Sunderland counter-attacked. Sessegnon running at the defence found Henderson lurking with intent around the penalty spot, and the homegrown youngster slotted under Al-Habsi to make it 4-1.

The rest of the game was mainly spent seeing out time, as the lads teased us with ideas of a fifth goal. Sulley Muntari coming the closest with a powerful half volley from 12 yards, but ultimately Wigan scored the final goal of the game to make it 4-2.

Franco Di Santo sliding in at the far post to put away Victor Moses' low whipped cross, but it was little more than a consolation for the Latics, as the party atmosphere grew inside the Stadium of Light, and the remaining 5 or so minutes were played out by lofting the ball into the corners.

"Brilliant, Brilliant, Brilliant"

Ratings:

22 Mignolet - 7/10 - Couldn't stop the goal, had little else to do, but he did it well.
02 Bardsley - 6/10 - Can't really comment as he only played like 5 minutes at best.
04 Turner - 6/10 - Still looked off the pace at times. Allowed Diame space to get the strike in.
06 Cattermole - 7/10 - Kept things moving well, not too rash in the tackle.
10 Henderson - 8/10 - Great performance again, and from the right. Take note Brucey - this is his best position.
15 Onuoha - 7/10 - Solid performance.
17 Welbeck - 6/10 - Only on a short time too, seemed full of running before injury.
25 Colback - 8/10 - Very neat and tidy, looks like keeping this position for a long time to come.
27 Elmohamady - 8/10 - Good crossing, did very well with Henderson. Forming a good partnership.
28 Sessegnon - 9/10 - Worked his arse off, and rounded off good game with a deserved goal.
33 Gyan - 8/10 - Seemed full of energy and back to his best. Shame injury forced him off.

Subs:

08 Malbranque - 8/10 - Kept the ball well, always looked a threat to the Wigan defence.
11 Muntari - 7/10 - Out wide on the left and a marked improvement on his game.
29 Ferdinand - 8/10 - Not asked to do much, but played very well at the back.

So, how good does this feel eh? 10th in the league, we actually won, we scored some goals and the team looked incredibly unified despite the injuries.

Perhaps those injuries will be looked at later in the week, but for now they can't dampen our spirits as we look at the league table and the performance in general. Couldn't be happier. I can't say much more than that!

Lets enjoy this one for now, and look at the injury inquest another day.

Keep the red flag flying high.

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