Sunderland swept to a record sixth successive Premier League triumph over bitter rivals Newcastle as Fabricio Coloccini’s controversial dismissal sparked the hosts’ 3-0 win at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
However, there might have been a totally different outcome if Newcastle had capitalised on their early domination before a goal in the closing moments of the first half that transformed the match and will be debated in the North East corner of England for a long time
Newcastle had more than one reason to be aggrieved over the incident that shaped the outcome.
It came from a penalty awarded in stoppage time when Newcastle defender Coloccini blocked Steven Fletcher as the Sunderland striker tried to reach a through ball.
Whether referee Robert Madley was right to award the spot-kick converted by Adam Johnson was highly debatable, but the red card shown to the centre-back was certainly harsh since goalkeeper Rob Elliot looked certain to reach the ball ahead of Fletcher.
Coloccini’s anger over the red card was only matched by Newcastle’s fury at Madley’s failure to spot Lee Cattermole’s reckless challenge on Aleksandar Mitrovic seconds earlier in the other penalty area.
Billy Jones and Fletcher added further goals for Sunderland in the second-half to ensure that Sam Allardyce would be their fourth successive manager to win this derby in his second match in charge.
And to make the derby success even sweeter for Sunderland’s players and fans, their first league win of the season lifted them above Newcastle on goal difference, although both remain in the relegation zone.
It was a painful afternoon for Newcastle, who had scored six times in a victory over Norwich in their previous match.
Steve McClaren’s team soon made their attacking intentions clear and only three minutes had gone when Coloccini hooked a shot too close to goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.
Sunderland were soon being overrun in midfield and were fortunate to escape punishment when Newcastle carved out three openings in quick succession midway through the half.
Pantilimon had to save from Moussa Sissoko and Jack Colback, a former Sunderland midfielder who was jeered every time he touched the ball, then Mitrovic went close when he was the first to react to a corner and steered a first-time shot narrowly wide.
– Clinging on –
Even at this early stage, it was likely Allardyce was planning tactical changes to deal with Newcastle’s authority.
Instead, he was forced to send on two substitutes in the space of two minutes because of injuries.
Jermain Defoe replaced Ola Toivonen and Sebastian Coates went on after John O’Shea pulled a hamstring, but the pattern remained the same as Pantilimon had to turn over a free-kick by Georginio Wijnaldum.
Sunderland were desperately clinging on until halftime when, astonishingly, they took the lead through Johnson’s controversial penalty.
Coloccini was still protesting as he left the pitch and Newcastle manager Steve McClaren walked to the centre circle to complain to the officials.
The next long walk of the game was made by Colback, who was injured in a challenge by Lee Cattermole four minutes into the second-half and was abused by Sunderland fans as he progressed round the perimetre of the pitch.
It meant another switch for Newcastle, who had sent on Jamal Lascelles instead of Cheick Tiote at the start of the second-half, but their 10 men still created chances, notably when Pantilimon saved well for Mitrovic in the 55th minute.
But, inevitably, Newcastle were no longer in total control of the game and they went further behind in the 65th minute when Jones pounced from close range after Yann M’Vila volleyed a deep corner towards goal.
Pantilimon still had to make another save from Wijnaldum, but Sunderland struck the bar through Johnson before Fletcher swept in their third goal from Younes Kaboul’s cross in the 86th minute.