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Top Ten: Games At The SOL - Part One

Entering its twentieth season, the Stadium of Light turns twenty years old soon. With it has come many memories - tune in as we count down the SOL’s top ten games, with part one going from ten to six...

Julian Finney/Getty Images
10: 17th December 2013 - Sunderland 2-1 Chelsea (AET) - Carling Cup Quarter Final

This is the only cup game in the countdown, surprisingly, but is fully deserving of its place.

As we started showing signs of improvement in the league under Gus Poyet, we had accidently started doing quite well in the Carling Cup and came up against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. As most of the fans had written this game as a dead rubber, Sunderland lined up with a few fringe players and first teamers.

Chelsea had started most of their star players and were the better side in the first half and inevitably took the lead with Cattermole own goal. As the tide started turning against our team, with Chelsea beginning to run riot, a lone streaker ran onto the pitch and somehow got the crowd going, which in turn made the team perform miles better suddenly.

As the fans roared the lads on, Emmanuel Giacherrini tried to open the door for us and eventually, with seconds remaining on the clock, managed to wriggle the ball through to sub Fabio Borini who took the game into extra time with a well-placed finished from a tight angle.

Sunderland dominated extra time, and as penalties loomed we tried to get the ball into the box one more time. Borini held the ball up and fed it to the immaculate Ki, who casually placed the ball into the bottom corner and turned what started as one of the worst seasons in memory to one of the most memorable as we marched on to the semi-finals.

9: 27th October 2013 - Sunderland 2-1 Newcastle - Barclay's Premier League

There have been a few memorable games against this lot and the win in 2013 just nips into our top ten.

Gus Poyet’s first game in charge had gone like much of the season had so far – terribly. The likeable Uruguayan’s second game in charge was the small matter of a local derby in October as we once against went in search of our first win of the season almost three months into it.

It feels normal nowadays, but at this point we had only beaten Newcastle once at the Stadium of Light. Whilst we feared the worst (as lightning, with this club, rarely strikes twice…unless it’s negative) having trounced them in the last game 0-3 mere months before, an early Adam Johnson cross resulted in Steven Fletcher’s first derby goal and second goal of the season.

The first half turned out to be our most solid performances of the season, as the returning Phil Bardsley and ANDREA DOSSENA…yes, Dossena, kept Ben Arfa and the likes quiet. Inevitably Newcastle came back into it, equalising through Matthieu Debuchy as he nipped in behind the defence and converted a mis-hit cross past Keiren Westwood.

The game became tense with Newcastle starting to look the more likely winner when we won a free kick on half way, taking it quickly. Within seconds the ball had reached the edge of the area - Jozy Altidore miscontrolled the ball into the path of Fabio Borini, who smashed home a twenty-five yard thunderbolt and send me full force into my mate Paul’s arms as if we were riding at the front of the Titantic as Jack and Rose.

I remember singing Wise Men Say louder than ever at that game, and luckily I have the video to remember it by. We’d done’ em, again.

8: 15th August 1997 - Sunderland 3-1 Man City - Nationwide Divison One

People often forget the first league game at the Stadium of Light was a bloody good one, and was oddly played on a Friday evening.

A star was also born that night.

Peter Reid’s relegated side had taken a sixteenth minute lead with, as he was known then, injury-dogged Niall Quinn getting the first ever goal at our new Stadium.

It looked like Sunderland would add a second and open the new stadium and season with a win, but against the run of play, Georgi Kinklazde won a penalty and dispatched it past Lionel Perez with just fifteen minutes to go.

Within minutes of that goal, a delivery across the face of goal brought a save from the City goalie and new signing Kevin Phillips lashed home what would be the first of 113 goals for the lads, before record signing Lee Clark added a third in injury time. This was one of those games where it looked like Sunderland would do a Sunderland, but ended up doing the opposite. What a great night.

7 - 1st January 2011 - Sunderland 1-0 Man City - Barclays Premier League

This New Year’s Day clash had been built up by Sky Sports as the game Manchester City would win and bridge a gap between themselves and nearest rivals Manchester United, who had surprisingly lost to Blackburn 2-3 the day before.

In what was a crazy run of 1-0 home victories over the blue side of Manchester, this was the second, and most definitely the best. Lee Cattermole and the lads put in a defensive performance even OJ Simpson’s lawyer would be proud of, whilst Stephane Sessegnon almost put the Lads ahead on the break with a shot that curled inches past the post.

Vincent Kompany’s header cannoned off Simon Mignolet’s bar in the 92nd minute, and eventually the ball broke to Seb Larsson, who ran as far as he could before falling to his knees with flu. James McClean found Ji, who played a one-two with Sessegnon and, with three seconds remaining of added time, the rest is history.

"It ain’t over till it’s over. There’s never been a game to tell you that more than this one!"

6 - 3rd April 2010 - Sunderland 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur - Barclays Premier League

This game had everything. Striker supreme Darren Bent was smashing in goals for fun and had talked up his relief at leaving Spurs and his love for his new club.

He was jeered during his Spurs days and must been devastated when he missed a penalty down at their place earlier in the season. With forty-odd seconds on the clock, he lashed in an opener right in front of the Spurs fans - I went mental and gave every cockney I could see the finger.

He added another from the penalty spot moments later. In a dominant first half, Bent then went on to miss another penalty before doing EXACTLY the same just after the restart. Peter Crouch, who had turned down a move to Wearside in the summer, was booed onto the pitch before scoring a looped header past Craig Gordon. On top of all of that, Anton Ferdinand scored a legitimately good goal but had it chalked off for no apparent reason.

I started to think that this would go down as the most unjust 2-2 draw in history - then, just as we all looked at the scoreboard thinking it should be 5-1 rather than 2-1, Bolo Zenden scored the best volley we have ever at the Stadium. Mental.

Join us later in the week for Part Two!