A unique friendly match-up between future Sunderland manager Tony Mowbray’s Glasgow Celtic and Steve Bruce’s Sunderland resulted in a narrow win for the Black Cats.
At the time of the match, Bruce had recently taken charge of the club and was in the process of assembling his new squad for the upcoming season. Two new players, Lorik Cana and Fraizer Campbell, made their debuts off the bench in this game.
In truth, it seemed that both managers had other pressing issues on their minds, apart from this friendly match. Mowbray, leading Celtic, was preparing his team for a challenging task in their Champions League qualification games, where they had to attempt to overturn a 1-0 deficit in Russia.
Bruce’s main concern revolved around the ongoing transfer saga of Tottenham Striker Darren Bent. Since becoming Sunderland’s manager, Bruce had made it clear that Bent was his top target. Despite the striker’s interest in coming to the North East, he was facing frustration due to the tactics employed by Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, as many other clubs were also interested in signing him.
As for the game itself, it followed the typical pattern of a pre-season friendly with a low level of intensity. Celtic was clearly focused on their upcoming Champions League game, evident by Mowbray fielding a second-string side, while Sunderland put forth what would have been almost their strongest lineup.
Celtic had the first chance in the match, as Danny Fox’s cross narrowly missed being poked into the net by Chris Killen within the opening minute.
Sunderland responded six minutes later when Andy Reid delivered a cross into the box, and Jones’s powerful header only just cleared the crossbar.
The visitors didn’t have to wait long to score, though, as they broke the deadlock in the 11th minute. Kieran Richardson capitalized on a mistake by Celtic’s goalkeeper Darren O’Dea and swiftly slotted the ball past home keeper Lukasz Zaluska.
Sunderland came close to extending their lead just before half-time when Jordan Henderson unleashed a powerful 25-yard shot.
Sunderland were dominant, and Celtic responded early in the second half by bringing on some of their key players, Aiden McGeady and Georgios Samaras. Despite Celtic’s good start to the second half, it was Sunderland who scored again.
Another excellent cross from Reid found Kenwyne Jones, who deftly headed the ball home from eight yards, showing his manager that he didn’t need to worry too much about failing to sign Bent for Sunderland.
From this point onwards, the game started to lose its competitive edge as both teams made numerous changes.
Mowbray responded with a flurry of substitutions around the hour mark, including star man Scott McDonald, while Bruce also shuffled his pack, bringing on the aforementioned £5m midfielder Lorik Cana, who made his Black Cats debut a minute later.
On the 68th minute, Celtic pulled one back when George McCartney’s weak clearance was seized upon by Marc Crosas, who volleyed low into the corner of the net, beating Fulop in the Sunderland goal.
After the game, Bruce praised the victory, particularly singling out Kenwyne Jones, whom he seemed to be very impressed with.
It was good for Kenwyne to get a goal and for Keiran, too. He’s had a fantastic pre-season. He’s scored four now and he could have had eight. He looks a class act and we’re delighted with him.
Four days later, Bruce would finally land his man with Bent’s Twitter outburst appearing to move things along. The striker signed £10 million deal and would go on to have a fantastic season at the club.
Celtic (4-3-2-1): Zaluska; Caddis, Loovens (Caldwell 59), O’Dea, Fox (Conroy 80); Flood (McGeady 59), Crosas, Brown (McDonald 59); McCourt (Donati 59), Mizuno (Maloney 59); Killen (Samaras 46).
Scorer: Crosas 67
Sunderland (4-5-1): Fulop; Bardsley (Healy 76), Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney; Malbranque (Nosworthy 76), Leadbitter (Tainio 76), Henderson (Cana 59), Richardson (Edwards 76), Reid (Murphy 80); Jones (Campbell 59).
Scorers: Richardson 14, Jones 53