It was Steve Bruce’s second full season and it was the next stage of reshaping his squad. The previous year saw the likes of Lee Cattermole and Lorik Cana give us renewed bite in the middle of the park, while Darren Bent was signed from Tottenham Hotspur to gives us the top-class goalscorer we’d arguably been without since Kevin Phillips.
On the opening day of the 2010-11 season Alex McLeish’s Birmingham City made the trip to the Stadium of Light, on a day that no fewer than six players made their debut as Steve Bruce continued to recruit on the back of finishing 13th in his first attempt.
By November, things were going well and as we sat 6th after an incredible 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge, we prepared for the visit of David Moyes’ Everton to the Stadium of Light.
Asamoah Gyan was injured ahead of the fixture after playing his part in the demolition of Chelsea, but we were able to welcome the return of Darren Bent from injury to slot straight into the side as his replacement.
We went into the fixture on the back of a run of one defeat in the previous eleven Premier League fixtures, looking upwards rather than over our shoulder, and with Everton sitting just a point above the drop zone, we were clear favourites to take all three points.
It probably came as no surprise then when after six minutes, we fell behind, and maybe even less surprising that the scorer was Tim Cahill after good work by Leighton Baines and Pienaar down Everton’s left hand side.
Steve Bruce’s side then dominated proceedings and a deserved equaliser came on 23 minutes when Bolo Zenden got the better of Baines and Pienaar in quick succession to supply the on-loan Danny Welbeck who finished smartly.
Quality was thin on the ground in the game for a long period as the two sides slogged it out for supremacy, until the 21-year-old Manchester United on-loan striker struck again with 20 minutes left on the clock. An inviting cross from Kieran Richardson from the right hand side, cutting back onto his left foot, was flicked cleverly by Welbeck into the far corner of the net.
His brace during this fixture in addition to his goal at Chelsea the previous week followed a suggestion from Sir Alex Ferguson that the teenager was a future England international.
As the game then appeared to be closing out with Sunderland taking all three points, it sparked back into life once more with seven minutes on the clock.
It began with the equaliser that came from Mikel Arteta with the aid of a deflection off Phil Bardsley that completely wrong footed Craig Gordon, leaving him stranded as he was heading in the opposite direction.
Then, either side could have nicked it in the remaining minutes. First, Darren Bent and Danny Welbeck missed golden opportunities to put us ahead yet again, and then in injury time, Jermaine Beckford missed the best of the lot.
With almost the last kick of the game, Beckford was in on goal behind the Sunderland back four with only the keeper to beat, but it wasn’t to be and David Moyes knew how big a chance it was:
We got into good positions but didn’t make them pay. It was disappointing we couldn’t finish off our good play, but it’s a hard place to come, Sunderland. It was a great chance for Jermaine Beckford at the end and he normally finishes those off.
Steve Bruce also knew that Everton could have left with all three points and was visibly relieved to come out of the game with a point:
We started slowly against one of the league’s better teams. But we responded well and we are a bit aggrieved that we’ve conceded late on, it’s a little frustrating. Overall I think a draw was a fair result and we’d have taken 2-2.
Monday 22nd November 2010
Barclays Premier League
Sunderland 2-2 Everton
[Welbeck 23’, 70’ - Cahill 6’, Arteta 83’]
Sunderland: Gordon, Onuoha, Turner, Ferdinand, Bardsley, Zenden (Malbranque), Cattermole, Henderson (Elmohamady), Richardson, Bent, Welbeck Substitutes not used:
Everton: Howard, Heitinga (Beckford), Distin, Jagielka, Baines, Coleman (Rodwell), Neville, Cahill, Arteta, Pienaar, Saha (Yakubu) Substitutes not used: Mucha, Hibbert, Bilyaletdinov