Scintillating. And that was just the first period!
When Chelsea visited the Stadium Of Light for the return Premier League fixture in December 1999 I don’t think there were many of us who thought we’d reverse the 0-4 “baptism” suffered at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season, and certainly not by half-time.
But that was exactly what happened when Peter Reid’s side contrived to produce one of the most outstanding results of not just season 1999-2000, but perhaps in the entire history of the Premier League/the game as a whole - certainly in our own history.
While the game must surely have ranked as possibly the best-ever seen at the Stadium Of Light - at least as far as the first-half was concerned!
Indeed, the first forty-five minutes on 4th December 1999 had surely left those privileged to be present (Chelsea fans maybe excepted) quite gobsmacked, mesmerised, and simply not quite able to take in just what had happened, as Sunderland brushed aside Gianluca Vialli’s side with a quite simply awesome display of attacking football. And if Sunderland - newly restored to the Premiership - had been taught a harsh lesson back in August about the reality of life amongst England’s elite then they certainly got their revenge in no uncertain terms.
The massacre had started with just forty-five seconds on the clock, when Frenchman Eric Roy collected a poor clearance, then went on a run which left several Chelsea defenders somewhat mesmerised before crossing for Niall Quinn to side-foot home the day’s fastest goal in England.
Chelsea then responded to this early setback, and Tore Andre Flo, later of course to appear for us, Gianfranco Zola and Gus Poyet, later to occupy the Sunderland manager’s hotseat, all went close.
Chelsea’s £10m summer signing Chris Sutton rather surprisingly had to be content with a place on the bench, and the visitors apparent lack of firepower up front was perhaps graphically illustrated by our own goal machine Kevin Phillips, who in the twenty-fourth minute scored not just a contender for goal of the season, but perhaps the best goal ever seen at The Stadium Of Light, and possibly our entire history.
The little striker capitalised on some more slack play at the back on the part of Chelsea and let loose with a twenty-five yard, dipping, swerving volley which nestled in the top corner as the home crowd went wild with delight. To say that Chelsea keeper Ed De Goey had been left without a prayer was surely one of the biggest understatements of all time.
So we found ourselves 2-0 up after just twenty-three minutes against one of the Premier League’s leading lights but there was to be no let-up, a fact perhaps emphasised when Bernard Lambourde had to clear from the line in the thirty-sixth minute.
This proved to be mere temporary relief as just sixty seconds later it was 3-0, as Marcel Desailly missed a high ball into the Chelsea box and allowed Niall Quinn the chance to fire in a shot which was pushed aside by De Goey, but only into the path of Super Kev, who was hardly going to pass up such a gift-wrapped chance.
Chelsea appeared quite shell-shocked and it was to get worse for the Londoners just two minutes later. De Goey tipped over the bar another dipping effort from Phillips, but the resulting corner was touched on for Big Niall, who sent a first-time left-foot volley into the corner of the net.
4-0 then at the break, who would have believed it? I certainly couldn’t as I queued for my half-time pie and Bovril, and indeed nor could some of the other fans I spoke to at the interval.
Naturally, we hoped for more of the same after the break, but perhaps not too surprisingly the second period turned into something of an anti-climax as we appeared content to defend the damage we’d inflicted in the first-half.
Not that we weren’t without our chances but Chelsea still seemed now more efficient at the back, if still rather ineffective up front. Flo had shot straight at Tommy Sorensen and the visitors did manage a consolation effort when, following a Zola corner, Poyet netted from close range for a final score of 4-1.
So revenge was certainly sweet, and this was easily the best home performance so far of season 1999-2000. The double act of Phillips and Quinn had once again demonstrated to perfection their potency in front of goal, and while we stayed in fourth place in the Premier League table this result perhaps emphasised that we were not merely back in “the big time” to make up the numbers.
For all present at The Stadium Of Light on 4th December 1999, “The Chelsea massacre” will surely be etched in their minds forever.