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Sunderland v Chelsea - Premier League

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On This Day (2009): Ricky Sbragia resigns as Sunderland stay up and Newcastle go down

Despite losing 3-2 to Chelsea, Sunderland stayed up by the skin of their teeth - and a loss for the mags at Aston Villa condemned them to relegation to the Championship.

Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Sunderland: Fulop, Bardsley, Davenport, Ferdinand, Collins, Malbranque (Healy 78), Whitehead, Tainio (Reid 65), Leadbitter, Richardson (Murphy 87), Jones. Subs Not Used: Colgan, Edwards, Cisse, McShane.

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Ashley Cole, Essien (Kalou 65), Mikel (Mancienne 78), Belletti (Ballack 27), Malouda, Drogba, Anelka. Subs Not Used: Hilario, Di Santo, Sinclair, Stoch.


Twelve years ago today, Sunderland stayed up and Newcastle went down.

It wasn’t all plain sailing, though.

We’d been crap for... well, ages, and Ricky Sbragia, despite his best efforts, quite clearly wasn’t the right man to take Sunderland forward post-Roy Keane.

Sbragia was part of Keane’s backroom team, but when the Irishman walked out and left the club in December 2008, Ricky took over as caretaker and immediately improved results.

Things unravelled though, and despite having a talented squad of individuals, results didn’t particularly improve all that much - meaning we went into the final weekend of the season knowing that our status as a Premier League club wasn’t quite certain.

We knew that winning the game would be enough, but given our opponents weren’t a complete bunch of knackers, that was always going to be a little bit difficult.

It was a lovely sunny day and a lovely day for football, and the opening exchanges of the game were nervy as Sunderland struggled to contain Chelsea and, in particular, Nicolas Anelka. I reckon his performance - playing in midfield - was one of the best ever seen at the Stadium of Light. He absolutely ran the show and our players couldn’t get near him.

He opened the scoring with a superb strike two minutes after half time which earned him the golden boot, ending the season with 19 goals in the Premier League.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Sunderland v Chelsea - Stadium of Light Photo by John Walton - PA Images via Getty Images

Anelka picked up the ball inside his own half before riding a series of challenges as he advanced on goal, thrashing an absolute thunderbolt at Marton Fulop which he had absolutely no chance of saving.

We responded fairly quickly though - Grant Leadbitter’s cross from the left caused problems for Petr Cech, who missed the ball and allowed Kieran Richardson the chance to get one back.

Chelsea then regained the lead in the 74th minute when Kalou scored another unstoppable cracker which nearly tore a hole in the net - and having gone behind, it had Sunderland looking over their shoulders a bit.

The visitors then added a third with four minutes left on the clock through Ashley Cole, scoring off his right foot as Sunderland struggled to clear a series of shots.

We got one back in the 90th minute when Kenwyne Jones got on the end of a superb cross from Andy Reid, but we didn’t do enough to win the game - but it didn’t matter.

News filtered through that Newcastle had lost at Aston Villa, a result which confirmed their relegation to the Championship after a long stint as a top flight club.

Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Damien Duff’s own goal was what settled it, and despite losing our own game, the scenes of celebration in the ground were as joyous - perhaps more so - as any other victory over the course of the season.

It was a nice feeling for the forty-odd thousand Lads fans in the ground knowing they could go into work on Monday and have a laugh at the expense of their toon-supporting colleagues - what we’d give now to be duking it out with the likes of Chelsea, eh?

After the game, Ricky Sbragia and Niall Quinn stepped out in front of the television cameras to confirm that he’d be resigning from his position now that he had successfully completed the job he was asked to do - to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.

That meant Quinn had to search for an able successor that would be able to take the club forward, starting that summer - and Wigan boss Steve Bruce was earmarked as that man.

Bruce had experienced moderate success with the Latics, and the lure of a return back to the North East to manage one of the biggest clubs in the land proved to be too tasty for the former Manchester United defender.

We’ll save that craic for another day, though.


Player Ratings (taken from Goal.com)

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Fulop 5.5 Made some key saves but could have done better on the third goal. A mixed bag.

Bardsley 7.5 A good, committed, solid outing for the former Manchester United man. Defended stoutly and got forward when permitted. One of the Black Cats’ standout performers.

Ferdinand 7.0 Won the majority of his headers and limited Drogba to only half chances.

Davenport 6.0 Solid and unspectacular, until his howler for Ashley Cole’s clincher.

Collins 6.5 Like his right-sided counterpart, the full-back was decent. Anelka was forced to forage inside for joy and Collins was present in attack too, towards the end.

Whitehead 6.0 Showed his willingness to fight fire with fire in the midfield quagmire. An unrefined, but effective display.

Malbranque 8.5 The most able player on the pitch this afternoon. Full of guile, craft and invention. Not shy of a challenge either.

Tainio 5.5 Not a memorable display from the Finn. Used the ball well when he had it, but those moments were few and far between.

Leadbitter 8.0 Alongside Malbranque, he can be proud of his efforts. Dropped in some tasty crosses and caused problems on both flanks for Chelsea.

Richardson 7.0 Troubled Cole with his pace and took his goal with aplomb.

Jones 7.0 A fine finish on the goal and relished the physical battle with Terry.


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