Report: Sunderland 1-2 Spurs
English Barclays Premiership
You could have excused fans setting off for their near 300-mile trek north with a slight sense of fear.
No Bunjevcevic, no Doherty and here we were, up against one of the most feared attacking partnerships in the Premiership, in front of 47,000 baying fans off the back of the disappointments against Chelsea.
But they needn’t have feared.
Instead, they were treated to an excellent display, thoroughly deserving of the three points and but for a mad last five minutes where the kitchen sink, cooker, extractor fan and table and chairs were thrown at us, we were in control.
The first half was as good a performance as you could expect to see from an away side.
Two old sages in the press box summed it up ‘they have so much space’, ‘we’re just hoofing it upfield’, ‘Anderton is running the show’, ‘Sheringham doesn’t give it away’ and ‘we’ll be lucky to go in one down’ were a selection of the sound bites on offer.
After surviving an early scare when Sullivan almost casually tipped over Arca’s volley with less than a minute on the clock, it was all Spurs.
The passing was crisp, the movement sublime and with Sheringham, Davies, Anderton, Ferdinand and Ziege all prominent, chances were created.
Poyet’s drive was deflected just wide after seven minutes and from the corner Ziege’s magnificent cross was flicked over by Poyet.
Ferdinand broke down the right only for McCartney to hack his dangerous cross away a minute later and after a scare at the other end, Phillips driving the rebound from his own free-kick just wide, it was Anderton who saw his shot deflected wide.
Another break saw some clever interplay between Sheringham and Ferdinand, although both refused to get a shot off and with 24 minutes gone, Sheringham’s goalbound header was cleared by McCartney.
It was all Spurs in this period and just as you were thinking ‘the goal’s coming’, the goal came.
After a spell of possession, Sheringham found Ziege wide. His right-foot ‘cross’ was intended for Ferdinand at the far post and Macho, no doubt trying to read the same, started to move off his line. It was a crucial mistake as Ziege’s effort curled over him and into the top corner, 26 minutes on the clock.
Haas made a vital tackle as Poyet burst onto Sheringham’s pass four minutes later and after another move involved Poyet and Sheringham, Craddock did enough to knock Ferdinand off balance as he shot.
Sunderland finally came back into it after 37 minutes when the Phillips-Quinn partnership clicked for the first time, Sullivan saved with his legs this time but the final action saw Anderton’s thunderbolt fly just over.
The fear was always that one goal wouldn’t be enough after a half of such domination.
Thankfully it took just five minutes of the second half to allay that fear. Ferdinand had already scuffed a half-volley straight at Macho when Sheringham delivered the second goal.
For a change it came from a long ball. Anderton knocked the ball into Ferdinand, the striker flicked on to the charging Ziege and his first-time cross was met by Sheringham, who buried from eight yards.
With the natives getting restless, a response was inevitable, but chances were kept at a minimum. McCann’s shapshot was parried by Sullivan and our number one had to be at his best to palm out a downward header from Craddock that skidded off the surface.
After defending stoutly when needed, Sunderland’s goal would not have pleased Glenn Hoddle. It was a routine long throw, flicked on by Quinn and Phillips pounced to volley home from 10 yards.
Now it was backs to the wall stuff. Clearances were hacked everywhere, body parts blocked everything and we manfully hung on with just one scare — in injury time Phillips hit the byline and his cross was parried by Sullivan onto Perry, who somehow scrambled back to hack the ball off the line.