What a game, what a performance! Where the hell has that been the last few weeks. I can't for the life of me remember one positive prediction before kick off, and perhaps that was the best thing for us, as we showed the mentality of a 'wounded animal' as opposed to the 'lame ducks' everyone (including myself) expected prior to kick off.
A truly great game, which has seen us rise up to 11th in the league, only two points away from today's opposition Bolton Wanderers in 8th position. Dare we dream of finishing in the top ten? I just might you know.
Time for the match report though, on a wonderful day...
All the pre-match hype was about how SAFC were going to line-up, with particular focus on the fact Steve Bruce was set to start Ahmed Elmohamady in attack.
It never quite conspired that way as we set up in a more 4-5-1 with Elmohamady and Steed Malbranque joining Stephane Sessegnon in attack when in possession and dropping back when not. It worked a charm.
Sunderland started the liveliest, with Bolo Zenden at the heart of things from the off, playing with all the energy of a player half his age as he sent in a slurry of free-kicks that didn't really trouble Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Wanderers goal.
Thats not to say Bolton were out of it from the get-go, as they had chances of their own in an end to end game. Only 10 minutes were on the clock when Simon Mignolet was called into the first serious action of the game, denying Matthew Taylor by spreading himself well.
With the travelling fans in tremendous voice, the best chance of the game so far fell to Phil Bardsley after 20 or so minutes. Jordan Henderson whipped in the free-kick for Bardsley to head well over, when completely unmarked in the 6 yard area. At this point you had to wonder whether or not it was going to be 'one of them days' once again.
This was especially true when Daniel Sturridge found himself through on goal following a hopeful punt form Gary Cahill, however John Mensah was able to get in a genuinely world-class block to deny the exciting young striker, and the scores remained level.
Over the course of the game, it seemed they have a chance, we have a chance, and following Sturridge's miss, Zenden was next to test Jaaskelainen forcing him into a good stop having been played through by Jack Colback.
Bolton turned on the juice following this, and Sturridge once again caused problems in the back line when his effort deflected of Phil Bardsley and crashed the crossbar. From the resulting melee, Johan Elmander wasted a decent header which could have put the home side 1-0 up. However they didn't.
We approached half-time, and you know how I said that they had a chance, we had a chance? That's what happened once again, and we took it! Stephane Sessegnon dropped deep to collect the pass and with the Bolton centre-back pairing split wide open, Bolo Zenden burst through. Sess spotted this and slipped the aging Dutchman in clear on goal. His legs actually made it, as he rounded Jaaskelainen and slotted home with his right foot from a narrow angle. A wonderful goal, and a deserved one both for us, and Zenden who had been magnificent to this point.
And there was the whistle. Half-time and Sunderland in front. I never imagined this in a month of Sundays.
The second period started well for us, as we seemed to pick up right where we left off on the front foot as Sessegnon forced Jaaskelainen into saving smartly low to his right as the Benin attacker's shot arrowed towards the bottom right corner.
The game turned somewhat scrappier form this point, as we sat deep, with Bolton unable to break down some solid defending from Anton Ferdinand and Co at the back. The closest the home side came was Sturridge having a chance blocked which Chung Yong Lee couldn't finish on the rebound as time ticked away nicely with SAFC in the lead.
As we entered the last ten minutes, nerves were at an all-time high. We're still leading, but Bolton are attacking with verve. Substitute Rodrigo stinging the palms of Mignolet from distance, before Jordan Henderson squandered the chance to play in Sessegnon on the breakaway when 3 on 1.
Steve Bruce brought on the soon to be departing Sulley Muntari for Steed Malbranque to shore things up, however it was to be Bolton who snagged an equaliser moments later, and shatter some little Sunderland hearts.
Rodrigo with acres of space down the left crossed for fellow sub Ivan Klasnic who nodded beyond Mignolet at the far post. It seemed to take an eternity to cross the line, it wasn't even the best of headers, but they all count, and it seemed our day was done. 86 minutes gone, and the scores 1-1. Would we even walk away with a point? This is Sunderland remember, and nobody can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like us.
Bolton pressed. Four minutes of added time were added on, and Bolton could well have snatched it. Phil Bardsley with an incredible goal line clearance to deny Kevin Davies. How he got his head on it, I've no idea, but I'm glad he did, as nobody saw coming what happened next, in the 93rd minute...
We only bloody scored didn't we! Sulley Muntari will get the goal too, having been played in by Sessegnon on the edge of the area. Muntari's touch was heavy and he took it very far wide, but his left footed shot went by Jaaskelainen and Zat Knight was unable to keep the ball out. Tremendous scenes amongst the very vocal travelling support as Muntari left the advertising boards to do a Gyan-esque dance for us all. Zenden in hot pursuit failed to join in, however I won't hold it against him, and the full-time whistle sounded.
22 Mignolet - 7/10 - Looked unbeatable at times, but was unfortunately beaten by one of the weaker efforts.
02 Bardsley - 7/10 - Squadered a good chance, but was back to his solid self defensively.
05 Mensah - 8/10 - Kept Davies and Elmander in his back pocket most the game.
07 Zenden - 9/10 - Magnificent game, played like a player half his age, superb display.
08 Malbranque - 7/10 - Was rarely involved, but contributed well to the team.
10 Henderson - 8/10 - Terrific once again, motoring all over the place, and looking to help Sessegnon.
15 Onuoha - 8/10 - Solid at the back, and swept up well for Mensah and Ferdinand at times.
25 Colback - 8/10 - Tremendous once again. A very confident and assured performance.
27 Elmohamady - 7/10 - Didn't offer much in attack, but was good defensively and covered lots of ground.
28 Sessegnon - 9/10 - His first touch is sublime, and set up both goals today.
29 Ferdinand - 8/10 - Much like Mensah, was superb all game, and played above his usual self.
11 Muntari - 7/10 - Grabbed a vital goal, if he never does anything again for SAFC we'll thank him for that.
So, a wonderful day's football which has seen us rise up to 11th place in the league, only two points from 8th as I said earlier. It feels pretty damn good to win, and in such a way.
All week long we've been miserable, I've seen Steve Bruce kicked from pillar to post on various forums and on Twitter etc saying he should go, he has no tactics, he can't motivate. Today, he shut up the vocal majority. Tactics were spot on, the team were fired up when they could have easily rolled over and died
Confidence will be high going into the home game with Wolverhampton Wanderers next week, and another 3 points on the board will do very nicely indeed.
I hope everyone has a wonderful night, go out and celebrate hard. Everyone at the club from Quinny down to us, has deserved it after living in hell all week.