This game is one that will always live long in my memory.
There was a real sense of occasion and glamour around Sunderland under Roy Keane. He was box office, and henceforth so were Sunderland.
Keane’s Sunderland always delivered box office moments and this game was no different.
As the clock ticked into the last minute of added time, Ross Wallace’s last-ditch cross into the box found the feet of new signing Michael Chopra, who cooly trapped the ball before slotting it into the bottom corner and past Tottenham goalkeeper Paul Robinson.
Cue pandemonium in the Stadium of Light crowd.
Sunderland were back - and back with a bang.
In the summer of 2007 Roy Keane, with the aid of the Irish Drumaville Consortium, went about trying to mold a squad of sufficient quality that could maintain Sunderland’s Premier League status. Keane spent a substantial amount of money on a number of signings.
In this game alone, Sunderland handed debuts to five newcomers. These were Craig Gordon, Paul McShane, Dickon Etuhu, Kieran Richardson, and the aforementioned Michael Chopra.
Tottenham, on the other hand, had a team littered with Premier League stars such as Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane, Steed Malbranque and Jermaine Jenas. Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent had to settle with a place on the bench.
The game itself was a typically cagey opening day affair. With both teams having new signings in their team, there was a clear lack of cohesion in the play. Tottenham certainly posed a bigger threat and it took some good defence from Nyron Nosworthy and Paul McShane to keep their strikers at bay.
Spurs had ample possession throughout, and Dimitar Berbatov wasted their best opening. That was about as good as it got for the away side as they struggled. In the words of their manager Martin Jol, they looked ‘comfortable, but not creative’.
Sunderland on the other hand were workmanlike, and tried to be creative without having that ruthlessness up top. Irish duo Daryl Murphy and Anthony Stokes started for us, and whilst they worked their socks off, neither ever truly looked like scoring.
Despite this, the best chance before the goal fell to Murphy. When a left-wing cross evaded everyone and the ball fell to him in the box, the Irish forward took a poor touch and was denied by Paul Robinson’s legs. In truth, this was as good as it got for the home team.
Despite calls for a penalty for a late challenge on Dean Whitehead, and a Dickson Etuhu curling shot going wide, it looked like it was going to be a worthy point for newly-promoted Sunderland - that was, of course, until the ball fell to Chopra in the box and he took a touch before slotting low into the bottom corner to send the fans into raptures.
Roy Keane was an evidently happy man and praised his players for not giving up:
It’s a great start to the season for us.
The players did fantastically well and they showed great desire to win the game so late on for us.
The whole group of players deserve a lot of credit.
It’s always nice to get points on the board.
This game set the tone for the season ahead as Keane’s men relied heavily on many late goals throughout the season to ensure they maintained their Premier League status.
Sunderland: Gordon, Whitehead, Nosworthy, McShane, Wallace, Edwards, Etuhu, Yorke (Miller 57), Richardson (Collins 72), Murphy, Stokes (Chopra 72).
Subs Not Used: Ward, Connolly. Booked: Whitehead.
Goals: Chopra 90.
Tottenham: Robinson, Chimbonda, Gardner, Stalteri, Kaboul, Jenas, Zokora (Huddlestone 87), Malbranque, Tainio (Bent 59), Berbatov (Defoe 77), Keane.
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Rocha.
Att: 43,967. Ref: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).