You know what, I don’t know either. I’ve got no idea whatsoever. Almost from absolutely nowhere, despite being bottom of the league we burst into a ray of bright, sunny, gutsy brilliance. Sunderland cast aside yet another Champions League team at the Stadium of Light – this time Chelsea at the second attempt to catapult us into the semi-final of the League Cup. Semi-final. Why aye man.
I am not going to dwell too much on the first 63 minutes or so, because whilst we were pretty awful in the main it’s not what matters anymore. Doesn’t matter one jot. Very precise amount of time I mention there, it is in fact the minute Craig Gardner was subbed for the eventual hero Ki Sung-Yeung on the 63rd minute. That is both because Gardner was awfully poorly terrible and Ki was tremendous.
Chelsea took the lead before most of the home fans returned from their beer and a pie for £70.00. It came from a chasm of space that was all too often left by the wandering Andrea Dossena. Frank Lampard poked the ball home but in truth it looks like yet another own goal, if it hasn’t already been credited as an own goal, this time from Lee Cattermole. Catts however, was instrumental in everything good about Sunderland. Imperious is the only word to describe the former skipper.
The equaliser came after some tremendous play from Cattermole, shielding the ball and playing a delightful pass to Emanuele Giaccherini. He set up Jozy Altidore, who hesitated due to a wall of Chelsea players before the loose ball fell to substitute Fabio Borini who managed to squeeze the ball home from a tight angle.
On to extra time and possibly the first time we have witnessed what maybe the effects of Paolo Di Canio’s extensive fitness regime as we took control of the game almost entirely. Especially in the second half of extra time, we had Chelsea on the ropes - though there was no sense of inevitability about the winning goal. Ki turned Ji as he showed incredible composure in the 118th minute, feinting to shoot before sending Mark Schwarzer the wrong way with a neat finish. Absolute insanity erupted from every corner of the city and I am still shaking with every letter I type.
We were under the cosh for a lot of regulation time and even when we were on top Chelsea, and particularly Willian, kept on threatening. John O’Shea was exemplary in defence as was Wes Brown who is completely forgiven for sloppiness in the first half. It’s hard to really tactically analyse such an emotional encounter without just reeling off a list of players who deserve immense praise such as Giaccherini, Borini and even Seb Larsson amongst the others already mentioned.
On a less positive note, our fullbacks were atrocious. Ondrej Celustka spent the match with his pants down as Willian got the better of him time after time and Dossena, well, I’ve got no idea. He is just a nutcase and I don’t even know if he knows what he is going to do next. Let’s be honest if he does know then he is even more of a mentalist.
In the end, this is a match that we, the fans, deserve. We’ve put up with some absolute dog mess this season and will probably put up with some more before it ends, whether that be in survival or relegation. The work ethic, determination and willingness to work for each other are things that must only make us beam with pride. The good times are back, even if just for an evening so let’s enjoy it lads and lasses. We love you Sunderland.
Oh, and both goals scored by subs - love you too Gus.
What They Said:
"That was the idea we want, to maintain that consistency. They played fantastic, they didn't stop. They gave everything today and I hope they have turned the corner."
"It needs to be the platform to go on and win on Saturday. If we are like this, I think we can be a very difficult team to play."
"People ask me before, which one do you want to win? Both - I hope we can win on Saturday."
“I think they played very well. It is the same story of Stoke, of Everton, of every match we lost.
“We never lost a match because the opponent is stronger than us. We don’t kill the opponent, we give them life. It’s always the same.”