From my brief past recollections, 1st legs of semi finals are a bit strange. There is an atmosphere and intensity obviously. But you know the 2nd leg is the one where it's all officially decided. Do you stick or twist in the first encounter? Well on this night Sunderland put one first in their first major final for 22 years. Huzzah!
It's easy to forget that there was a first leg against Manchester United, such was the drama and emotion of the second. Despite the gravity of the opposition, I actually fancied our chances if we could take something from the Stadium of Light opener. The Lads delivered.
They went out and achieved a fine victory over one of the biggest names in world football, in the semi final of a cup competition. That's not to be sniffed at. While this Moyes side is not vintage Manchester United, a win over the champions is still a win over the champions and I for one think that's not only worth remembering, it's worth savouring.
I actually missed the opener, stood as I was at a urinal, bemoaning the lack of a goal up until that point, when the noise from above told me a celebratory beer would be needed once I'd zipped up and caught the replay on one of the tellies. Back at my seat for the second half, the equaliser and away goal flattened us a bit. Tension set in.
Adam Johnson's arrival on the pitch was pivotal. He injected life and energy into proceedings, winning a penalty with some wonderful dribbling inside the box. Borini did the rest. It may not have been a full house, but the noise that met the goal could easily have been mistaken for the roar of 100,000. He's made a bit of a habit of scoring in big games has Fabio, with goals in two wins over the Mags and this cracking penalty in a cup semi. A repeat on Sunday wouldn't go amiss.
That left us with foot on Wembley Way. Just a second leg at Old Trafford stood in our way. Easy, right?
Two legged games are a bit odd. A positive result, unless emphatic (see Manchester City v West Ham), can always be turned around in the second tie. Then there's the age old is it better to be home/away in the 1st/2nd leg discussion. Well, the approach to the game on this occasion meant that an off the pitch victory was as close to my heart as the one on the pitch.
Today was the day the highly controversial 'bubble' trip for away fans travelling to the Tyne Wear derby (We won 0-3, yer knar) was kiboshed. Fans from both sides came together, with the help of the FSF, and put in place a plan of action to try and turn things around. After a number of meetings with the club, who were very open with everyone there about the situation, the bubble was burst.
It was funny, because when I left the club that afternoon I could empathise with the clubs position. However, it appeared a turn around was incredibly unlikely. By the time I arrived home from said meeting, it was over. I think the club and fans re-bonded that day.
This joy certainly spilled over into the SoL a few hours later. Phil Bardsley shocking Giggs Wiggsy into putting through his own net, then Fabio Borini restoring our lead emphatically from the penalty spot after a Vidic equaliser.
The key thing in this game I feel, was the influence of Adam Johnson. He came on, won the penalty and looked like the player of old. Since then his form has been incredible, with the winger unplayable at times. Once again great evidence of the positive effects of our cup success this season. He should turn out at Wembley a few days after the cup final, in my opinion. In an England shirt, on that occasion.
So off to Old Trafford with a one goal advantage. The media giving us no chance still. Manchester United favourites, obviously. We'll just see about that...