Sunderland 3-2 Burnley, 2006/2007
To be honest, there have probably been better all-round home performances at the Stadium of Light, but for me, this one stands out as a game where we really had to fight for what turned out to be a vitally important victory.
Burnley were no mugs- they had one of the most resilient goalkeepers in the division in Brian Jensen, and with the Sky Sports cameras in attendance, we knew that a win on such a huge occasion would virtually guarantee us promotion to the Premier League.
Birmingham didn’t play until the Saturday, and we knew that winning our final two fixtures would guarantee a top flight return, but that didn’t make the task at hand any easier and we simply had to perform on the big occasion.
Thankfully we did, but the game didn’t unfold without challenges.
Having taken the lead through Daryl Murphy, David Connolly missed a penalty and then two Burnley goals - one from Andy Gray, who had stunk the place out the season before in red and white, and a Wade Elliott screamer - gave us a huge mountain to climb.
But, as was typical of Roy Keane’s Sunderland teams, the Lads had unbelievable heart and determination, and fought and battled right until the bitter end for every loose ball and every header to ensure we got the perfect result.
And then came the moment.
There has been no finer winning goal scored by Sunderland in my lifetime, and Carlos Edwards’ thirty-yard thunderbolt virtually sent Sunderland back to the Premier League - the perfect end to an absolute fairytale season.
Birmingham won their game the day after and knocked us back off the top of the league, but results went our way on the following weekend, and a rousing 5-0 victory over Luton not only sealed promotion but saw us take the league title too.
In terms of what it meant for our season, because of the way we fought back from when other sides may have crumbled, and also the way we won the game thanks to the goal from Edwards, this was a truly special, unforgettable Sunderland performance that will go down in the history books as one of, if not the greatest Stadium of Light performance of all time.
Mitch Marshall says…
Sunderland 3-0 Everton, 2015/2016
Securing our own survival while simultaneously relegating our rivals, all in the cauldron of one of the best regular season non-derby day atmospheres the Stadium of Light has ever seen, Sunderland’s 3-0 demolition of Everton in 2016 has to be in contention as one of the greatest performances Monkwearmouth has witnessed since our move in 1997.
While Everton only won two games more than us in the 2015-2016 season, future stars including John Stones and Romelu Lukaku lined up for the Toffees in this match, adding to the trickiness of the task faced by the Lads.
Though Everton’s toothless performance in the face of a Sam Allardyce-inspired Sunderland masterclass might suggest our performance level did not have to be as high as it was during narrower home wins over the likes of Manchester City or Chelsea, this remained a special performance for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the significance of the fixture- our last home game of the season- meant that our players had to handle the pressure of playing for their Premier League status against an apparently superior team, with little riding on the game.
This is especially relevant given that it took until the thirty-eighth minute for Patrick Van Aanholt to open the scoring via a free kick which wrong-footed Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles.
In my rose-tinted recollection, we simply blew Everton away from the off, but the fact our goals actually came either side of half time testifies to the resolve and resilience this side possessed at this stage of the season. In front of an expectant, if raucous crowd, our team stepped up to ultimately cow their opponents into submission.
What makes this performance even more special to me, however, is that in retrospect it has an air of tragedy and dramatic irony about it.
It was, to varying degrees in each case, the final time we saw the likes of Lamine Kone (who scored a brace on this momentous evening), Wahbi Khazri, Younes Kaboul, and Patrick Van Aanholt reach their full potential in red and white.
Kone and Van Aanholt had their heads turned over the coming months - Kone by Everton, ironically - while Kaboul left for family reasons and Khazri was shunned by a certain David Moyes. Also, who could forget that this was the last time that fan favourite Yann M’Vila would grace the Stadium of Light with his combative tackling and silky technical skills?
As such, this ecstasy-inducing victory sticks in my mind as one of the truly great performances.
It typified the blend of defensive solidity and attacking prowess, particularly from set pieces, that was Allardyce eventually able to coax out of a previously despondent squad. That it would evaporate all too quickly over the summer of 2016 only makes this performance all the more worthy of recognition.
Andrew Smithson says…
Sunderland 4-1 Chelsea, 1999/2000
I’ve enjoyed a couple of other games for various reasons, but for sheer quality, the one that always springs to mind is the famous 4-1 win over Chelsea in 1999.
It is seen as a Stadium of Light classic and rightly so - we were unplayable at times and could have easily scored more. The goals we scored were absolute crackers as well, and when you watch them back now you can hear the crowd react with a mixture of elation and disbelief.
That wasn’t because we didn't believe in the side. We all knew we had a good thing going, and the club was on an upward trajectory and starting to compete with some of the best teams in the country. Chelsea were right up there too, but we seemed to be on a different level altogether that afternoon.
There was a spell during the first half where Chelsea didn’t know what had hit them. Some world-class players were being made to look average at best, and Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips were showing exactly why they were one of the best strike partnerships the club has ever had.
The technique displayed for the second, third and fourth goals was phenomenal, and Eric Roy has to take a lot of credit for getting things going, when he did so well to create the opener.
That era was a great time to be watching the Lads, and I am sure that any Sunderland fans in attendance will want to remember it for many years to come.