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OK, I promised myself that I wouldn't write a match report but here are some snippets from my first trip to Sunny Sunderland...
After the SOTG stadium-move referendum, I wailed for all to hear that a new stadium for Leeds would be something for us all to repent at leisure. I really did vote NO for the move and the pre-match pubs in the weeks that followed the vote reminded me of Bavaria in the late 1940's and early 50's - a region of some 9 million people, NONE of whom have ever voted National Socialist - because it was difficult to find anyone in favour of a move by Leeds.
So then, off today to a relatively new stadium to see what the 21st century might bring me in place of my unfashionable nostalgic memories. All in all, it was probably a fair trial as far as I am concerned.
The Stadium of Light (I wonder if there really is anybody in Leeds 11 who can come up with such a pretentious name for SOTG2, may the gods preserve us from the Lurpak stadium) is often held up as a shining example of how to do football, in a modern way.
Having checked my mission statement from the Ticket Office, I decided to use the match-day Park and Ride Scheme (as this is what most of us will do post Elland Road). First off, I had to negotiate a serious traffic back-log on the A19 (this was about 100 minutes before kick off).
Nae bother though once through that hurdle. The much vaunted park-and-ride scheme in fact simply uses the facilities of a light-industrial/ commercial estate, i.e. on-street parking and small office car parks. Hmmm... innovative and effective... No problemo getting the ride bit of the park-and-ride either. Hopped on a half empty bus, full of comatose Mackems. To be fair though one old chap, well older than me so he must be old, was very helpful and told me where to get the bus back after the match. Apart from that, a very subdued journey.
The ground itself is quite canny (apparently a local wearside term for "rather appealing") affording more than adequate views of the pitch, comfortable leg-room in the seats and great acoustics (as I had heard from various sources before the match). And so it should be, if you get the benefit of a greenfield build. The facilities were not quite adequate at half-time. Cold beer and colder air seem to invigorate the Yorkshire bladder and the bogs were well and truly over-subscribed. I got some funny looks on my way-out when I told the waiting throng that it was "standing-room only in there..." Mind you we had plenty of John Brauns wannabes in there too, relieving themselves in the sink basins. Really, chaps! What would your mothers say?
Heard one or two people saying that the park-and-ride return journey could take anything over 90 minutes after the game and began to wish that I had found my own spot for the Dundermobile.
Still, I resisted the temptation to leave the game early and made my way out after the final whistle - to find a ginormous queue for three or four buses. I decided to do the decent thing and jump the queue, settling for a nonchalant stroll past the line of patient Mackems, eventually cutting in, rather easily very close to the front of the queue. Saved myself an hour's wait. Got on the bus, which was full of people, all of them home supporters. All of them completely subdued. It must be something they put in the water, or something that is drilled into them from birth - You're just a bloody Mackem, shut up and put up with it, OK? To paraphrase John Lennon - The Mackem is the ni**er of the Geordie World. I digress, I still had the prosepect of a less than thrilling bus trip back to the industrial estate. The trip, almost in complete silence, took forty minutes for the two and a half mile trip. The bus steadlily drip-fed victorious fans into the various office car parks and the underwhelming sense of joy evaporated with them.
By now, if you haven't already put the plastic bag over your head and polished off the cat's valium, you will probably understand that I didn't enjoy the "new stadium experience." Too bloody true I didn't - because I know that this is what it will be like at Leeds in a year or two. Soul-less.
Oh, thank you for asking, I did watch the match. We had a very sizable leeds away support too - but the worst away support I have seen for years, they couldn't be arsed to get behind the team at all. Not one of the dozen or so around me seemed to have a tongue in their heads - not even to vent deserved wrath at the prima-donna Graham Barber (no relation, eh Maggie?)and that little Hitler of a linesman that has been a prat at least once in front of the Lowfields (sorry MNES) stand.
so why did the wheels fall off today? Especially when the Mackem chimps couldn't even register a single shot in the first half?
Easy - we had a team that was still getting to know each other. Keane missed our best chance in the first half. Smiffy and Keano are not an item yet. Bakke went into post Alfi depression. Harte was Harte, i.e. a pretend defender. Batts was superb, thank you David. Seth Johnson looked good. But overall, not a real team performance.
D'OH Leary did his usual Houdini act as soon as we went two down. Oh what a lucky man you were David. If Judas George hadn't effed off, you would not have had your chance for years to come. Affability is a fine attribute but no substitute for tactical awareness and the ability to respond quickly to circumstances. Of course, this may be harsh - he can only do what he can with a limited squad. So where is our number three striker until the Waltzing Matildas come home?
This result meant so much to every Sunderland player, manager and fan alike (not least my sister, nephew Craig and mate Ged [Sutty], who all live on the outskirts of Leeds). What a marvelous feeling it is when you awaken from a drunken stupor, put your throbbing head in your hands and smile contentedly! (As you've probably guessed that's why this reports late) There's always been an edge to any game against Leeds. After years of poor results against the Yorkies we finally turned them over and in some style too.
The Lads: Sorensen, Haas, Gray, Thome, Williams, McAteer (McCartney), McCann, Thirlwell, Arca, Quinn (Laslandes), Phillips.
The first half was a fairly even affair. Darren Williams had his header cleared off the line early on but it was Sorensen who was forced into the first save. Batty played in Keane but his shot was too close to Tommy, who nevertheless held the shot well. We were playing much better than of late, more than holding our own in all areas of the pitch.
The second half was only 2 minutes old when the Lads took the lead. The diving Martyn parried McAteer's low shot from 20 yards but the ball fell straight to Arca who bundled home from 5 yards. Julio whipped his top off in celebrations that were to be eclipsed only 7 minutes later when Kevin Phillip's 50th Premier League goal brought the house down. Quinn chested the ball down into Kev's path and without breaking stride he smashed a half volley into the bottom corner from 20 yards. It was a goal of international class, past England's current number 2 keeper. Leeds looked a beaten side but Robbie Keane nearly earned his side a penalty but instead was harshly booked for diving. McAteer almost got the goal his performance deserved from a free kick from 22 yards but Martyn tipped his curling effort on to the bar at full stretch.
MOTM Kevin Phillips.
Posted by BiG
I'm gonna do one of those irritating player ratings things cos that's just the kind of guy I am, an' that.
Tommy: - Mint. Some great saves. Always where he needed to be. (9)
Micky: - Mint as well - has a nice partnership with Hoolio now and they cover each other - caught out of position once or twice but that's what you get when you have an attacking full back like le micque. (7)
Thome: - A veritable rock. Imperious. And impervious (probably). How many times do you see an opposing forward asking for a central defenders shirt at the end of a match eh? Smith (the snot nosed, dirty little git) did. (9)
Williams: - A revelation. His best game for ages. Humble pie was on my diet on Sunday night. (8)
Haas: - Solid and dependable and gave us options on the right linking well with McAteer. (7.5)
Hoolio: - hasn't he got a pale skin? Caused the bald guy, wotsisname, Mills a right load of trouble (and Johnson - or wos it just cos they were both bald I kept getting mixed up?). Back to his best. (9)
Thirlwell: - We didn't miss spaceman did we' Solid - always passed to a red and white shirt - although mostly sideways. (7.75)
McCann: - Did very well against a battling Leeds midfield. Good passing and good movement. (8.5)
McAteer: - Came thru the humiliation - if he reads this board - of being told he's crap and past it by his own fans (you know who you are) to get a standing ovation at his substitution. ...by playing a blinder. OK so when was the last time you saw a Sunderland player showboating and playing keepy-up on the wing eh?. Some good crossing and great service to the front two. His shot led to the first goal. (9)
Quinn: - Did what he does best and a couple of chest downs NEARLY came off before the neat knock down for Kev's goal. He will be sorely missed when he succumbs to his Methuselah-like age. (8)
Kev: - He scored! Forget "link up play" forget "overall contribution" forget "tracking back". He scored.
Some good link up play and his overall contribution was good. He tracked back effectively. And he scored.
He's got a habit of appearing a tad lazy at certain times though and more than once I was found to be yelling "get in the box man Kev" as he sauntered on the edge of the penalty area. I'm sure I'm being unfair. (8)
Lillian: Looked strong although never looked like scoring. I'm sure he was told "hold the ball up" and "close their defence down" And this he did. (7)
There was another sub wasn't there? I can't remember who it was. I'll give him 7. Because that's just the kind of positive thinking fair-minded and hugely todgered person I am.
Some good football, building on the improvement at the Arsenal game and a further improvement that got the reward it deserved. Neat passing and incisive play. We nullified Leeds and looked the better team. the defence was so solid that I wasn't as fearful as I usually am at one nil up.
I still support Reid. I still support Sunderland. I still support my gonads with a mark IV Tytan thorough-grip gentleman's bollock-halter (available through the NHS at reduced prices)
I've checked and there's no egg on MY face.
I had a couple (ahem) of jars with 2 Leeds fans after the game and they were only too pleased to admit that the best team won on the day. Perhaps David O'Whingey should take lessons from them? This is the kind of performance and result that have made all of us fans so proud over the last couple of seasons. Can we keep it going? Let's hope so. Keith S30S.
As you come over the A19 towards Sunderland, heading towards Roker, there suddenly, looming large, is the Stadium of Light. complete with large black cats in the side and stands that don't look high enough on the outside for a stadium that houses almost 50,000 people. It's a good looking stadium, that once inside seems intimate while still holding a good number of people. It's noisy, certainly the noisiest home fans we've seen this season and offered a great view to us.
There really should be more toilets though. Whoever was castigated for pissing in the sink a few months back need no longer worry, 'cos at half time not only were there almost as many people pissing in the sink as in the Huw Rinals, but one poor sod whose bladder was obviously on the brink of exploding, chose to piss in the dustbin rather than join the interminable queue.
What was in the bin was a sadly accurate analogy for the second half performance of Mr Barber, Mr O'Leary and the team.
Before wending my way to the bogs for the half time leak, Leeds had looked pretty comfortable. Easily and by far the best team, making the Black Cats look like little pussies. While passing piss poor bitter and piss weak coffee onto Sunderland stainless steel I reflected on statistics.
Before yesterday: Sunderland v Leeds
Played 11, Leeds Won 11, Sunderland won none, Draws none
Leeds: Played 11, lost none.
Sunderland Played 12, lost 5.
Leeds: One on Ones with Golkeeper in last 12 months: 3,345 - Scored: about 3.
Make that 3,346 attempts, scored about 3.
Really, at half time, we should have been one up, a slide rule pass through the centre of defence, Keane squeezing between the last two defenders and having a clear, unhindered shot on Sorensson with the whole goal to aim at. We shouldn't have been surprised that Keane decided to pass it back nicely to the Sunderland stopper.
Leeds attacks were incessant: time after time, Mills, Bakke or Smith were fouled on the Sunderland left and Harte's free kicks came to nothing each time. Smith harried, Keane was busy, but we seemed lightweight up front.
Second half started and within seconds the ball was floating across the Sunderland goal. More of the same?
Sunderland's first attack of the second half found the ball scrambled away, only for it to be crossed back in towards Matteo, Matteo was then pushed in the back by Quinn just as he tried to head it away. Did the ref see it? No, of course not. With Matteo not being able to get proper purchase on the ball due to the push, the ball fell to MacAteer who scratched a shot in that had Nige scrambling across to. I though Nigel would save it comfortably, but he could only push it out to Arca, who stabbed it in. The Sunderland fans to our left who had outsung us all game were joined by the rest of the ground amd silenced us.
The rest of the game Sunderland were by miles the better team. The second goal was classic Sunderland. Long ball to Quinn to knock down for Phillips to blast in an excellent finish from the corner of the box.
Although Keane carried on running his socks off, never did we vaguely look like scoring. I haven't seen the penatly incident on TV, and that could have made Sunderland jittery. However, Sunderland looked like scoring many times afterwards, MacAteer's, excellent shot was brilliantly tipped onto the post and out for a corner that wasn't given by Mr Barber, his linesman or either of their guide dogs. You could see Nige's grin all the way up at St James' Park. It wasn't funny.
To me, the most disappointing thing was that with 20 minutes to go, Leeds looking in disarray, O'Leary didn't try anything. Bakke was annonymous after the first twenty minutes or so. Why not try something like bringing Wilcox on to get behind the defence and get some decent crosses in? I don't really buy this small squad nonsense, most of the people on the bench were international players.
We missed Bowyer and/or Kewell most yesterday - they make thigs happen. Much as Batts, Ollie and Seth are good players, they aren't really the playes that do something different and spark things off. Bowyer can't pass and Kewell might be lazy sometimes, but they bring an extra dimension to the team. something that was sadly lacking yesterday.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 19/11/2001.
The last unbeaten league record in England is no more. Leeds United lost for the first time this season yesterday, in fact for the first time in the Premiership since May. What's more, it was only their third league defeat in the calendar year and came against a club that had not beaten them in the top flight since 1980. All in all, something of a surprise then, one that meant that Liverpool top the Premiership and that Sir Alex Ferguson is probably a very happy man indeed.
Only one win now separates the top six in this freshly interesting division and it is a measure of how condensed matters are that Sunderland's victory brought them to within seven points of Liverpool, whom they visit next Sunday. Leeds are on the same points as Liverpool in second place, having played one match more.
Even though there was understandable disappointment from David O'Leary's perspective at this first defeat, the Leeds manager accepted that it was one of those days when "it wasn't going to be".
Copy from The Independent of 18/11/2001.
Eleven years ago this week, Peter Reid took charge of his first game as a manager, stepping into the space in the Maine Road dug-out vacated by his mentor Howard Kendall, but few victories he has overseen since would have given him the satisfaction of this one.
It was not just because it ended Leeds' unbeaten Premiership record; Sunderland had last won at the Stadium of Light more than two months ago and in that time their League position and Reid's reputation on Wearside have plummeted. "All managers feel pressure," he said. "But it's not real pressure, when you consider there are that many out of work."
Yet, this was hardly the kind of match Sunderland would have relished. The popular memory of this fixture may be that of Bob Stokoe, wearing a pork-pie hat, embracing Jim Montgomery after one of the most remarkable FA Cup finals the game has known but the recent history of Leeds versus Sunderland has been one of unbroken Yorkshire dominance - since 1988 Leeds had won the last 11 League encounters.
Yesterday they were undone by the virtues that have been the key to Reid's successes since bringing Sunderland back to the Premiership two years ago; the predatory instincts of Kevin Phillips, the goalkeeping excellence of Thomas Sorensen and his eye for a bargain.
For all the impact his big-money summer signings, Lilian Laslandes and Nicolas Medina, have had thus far, the £7m fees might just as well have been tossed off Roker Pier, while Phillips, Sorensen, McCann, Williams and McAteer, who cost £2.6m between them, drove Sunderland on to easily their most impressive display of the season.
McAteer, who had come to Wearside after mixing playing for the Republic of Ireland and turning out for Blackburn reserves, was one of four who had experienced the emotionally-draining play-off in Tehran. He had not enjoyed the trip to Iran, but it says something for a footballer's powers of recovery that he and Robbie Keane were to have the most pivotal impact on the game.
McAteer's shot, driven into a crowded area, was palmed away by Nigel Martyn into the path of Julio Arca. At Leicester a fortnight before, he had missed a similar chance and Sunderland had lost embarrassingly. Yesterday he scored.
David O'Leary thought his keeper might have done better, but faced with a move that has become honed over many years at Sunderland's training ground - the long ball to Niall Quinn, chested down for Kevin Phillips - Martyn was rendered helpless by an acutely accurate shot.
O'Leary reacted by pointing out that in the absence of Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer, his resources were not strong enough to cope with what he called "a good scrap of an English game", adding: "I have heard so many local experts proclaim what a good squad we have. We are getting there but we have not got the squad to compete with Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United."
It was an assessment Reid agreed with; pointing out that Arsenal and United, the previous two visitors to Wearside, had boasted far stronger benches.
However, had Keane been awarded a penalty which both managers thought he deserved after being brought down by Bernt Haas, Leeds might have maintained their unbeaten record. Instead, Keane found himself booked for diving.
Nevertheless, in each half he was presented with an outstanding scoring opportunity; sent through by a beautifully-weighted pass from David Batty in the 21st minute, and then reacting splendidly to a ball which flashed across the Sunderland goalmouth. Each time, Sorensen, who was later to be awarded the title of North-East footballer of the year, was his equal.
Goals: Arca (47) 1-0. Phillips (55) 2-0.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen 8; Haas 6, Thome 5, Williams 6, Gray 5; McAteer 8 (McCartney, 87), Thirlwell 6, McCann 7, Arca 6; Quinn 6 (Laslandes, 69 4), Phillips 6. Substitutes not used: Butler, Schwarz, Macho (gk).
Leeds United (4-4-2): Martyn 4; Mills 5, Ferdinand 7, Matteo 5, Harte 5; Bakke 5, Dacourt 7, Batty 6, Johnson 5; Smith 6, Keane 6. Substitutes not used: Kelly, McPhail, Duberry, Wilcox, Robinson (gk).
Referee: G Barber (Tring) 3.
Bookings: Sunderland: Quinn. Leeds: Mills, Keane, Smith.
Man of the match: McAteer.
Copy from Yorkshire Evening Post of 19/11/2001.
IT had to happen eventually. But nobody ever really expected Leeds United's first defeat of the campaign to come at Sunderland.
The Stadium of Light has been such a favourite haunt for Leeds in recent seasons that even without three of their key players there never seemed much danger of defeat. Sunderland had not won a top flight match against Leeds since 1980 and indeed had lost every one of the last dozen or so encounters with the Whites.
Their form this season has been nothing short of woeful and there was little evidence that United's brilliant run of just one defeat in 27 would come to a halt.
The fact that it did should not alarm anyone in the Elland Road camp. They have lost no ground in the title chase and unbeaten records have to go sometime.
Indeed, had Robbie Keane finished two glorious chances and had referee Barber awarded a clear penalty instead of booking the Irishman for diving things would have been different.
Manager David O'Leary has long said that to be challengers he would need his key players to play in key games. He has been fully vindicated as Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka and Lee Bowyer, especially the latter, were painfully missed.
United have lost three games in all competitions this season and it is no mere coincidence that Bow missed them all. A right midfielder is a vital addition now and maybe this performance, while not a poor one, will nevertheless nudge the Leeds boss into stepping up the chase for Feyenord star Brett Emerton - or whoever is on his hit-list.
Without a recognised replacement for Bowyer, who could be out for a further month with a hamstring injury, O'Leary was forced to change tack completely.
He switched from his ritual 4-4-2 to a diamond-shaped 4-3-1-2 with the more centrally-focused Eirik Bakke playing in a withdrawn role just behind Alan Smith and Robbie Keane. That left debut boy Seth Johnson playing on the left side of a three-man middle with David Batty in the centre and Olivier Dacourt on the right.
Dominic Matteo had made a miraculous recovery from a knee operation just 13 days earlier to take his place in the meanest defence in British football.
It was a defence which before this game had been so stingy that no team had managed to score more than one goal past them in a league match.
Sunderland, however, were in the mood for smashing a few records.
Manager Peter Reid had found himself under a wee bit of pressure in recent weeks as results continued to go against his team and it seemed the Black Cats had something to prove. They did, however, have to play second fiddle to United for long periods of the first half and even though Olivier Dacourt had to clear a Darren Williams header off his own line in the sixth minute it was Leeds who had the best chance of the opening 45 minutes.
It came in the 21st minute when Batty threaded a delightful ball through the Sunderland defence for Keane to race onto. The Irishman had the beating of both Emerson Thome and Williams but made life too easy for Thomas Sorensen as he shot straight at the keeper.
Smith, who never stopped working for the entire 90 minutes, did see a snap-shot on the turn saved by Sorensen down to his right, but Keane's one on one remained the best opportunity of the half. Sunderland must have sensed their chance and after the break emerged with a fresher bounce in the step.
Within two minutes they had taken the lead.
Matteo's headed clearance fell to the impressive Jason McAteer on the right edge of the box, he struck a low bouncing effort goalwards that Martyn was unable to hold and Julio Arca was on hand to knock in the rebound.
It was a poor error from the Leeds keeper who may have been unsighted, but will feel he should have held onto the original strike.
United are not used to letting in goals these days and it shook them a little. However, within eight minutes they were stung again. Haas' looping ball to the edge of the box was expertly chested down by Niall Quinn into the path of Kevin Phillips who crashed the ball beyond Martyn's right hand and into the bottom corner.
It was a quality goal from a man who still harbours hopes of making it in the England squad for Japan and South Korea this summer.
One player who will definitely be there is Irishman Keane. But he will hope that he has better days in front of goal come World Cup time.
Just before the hour he again found himself with a glorious chance to find the net - but was denied by Sorensen, after Bakke had done the spadework with a run down the right wing.
It was not a good day for Keane and it got much worse in the 69th minute when referee Barber turned away his penalty appeal and then booked him for diving just to add salt to the wound.
TV replays proved there had been contact from Haas but it was typical of United's and Keane's day.
At the other end his Irish team-mate McAteer was enjoying himself as he first saw a free-kick touched onto the crossbar by Martyn and then saw Martyn dive across to his right and palm a low drive around the post.
The closest United came was when Johnson, who had looked impressive throughout, fired from range straight into the arms of Sorensen and then volleyed over from a Smith knock-down.
Unbeaten records are easily lost, the hard task for United now is to start all over again and build up another impressive run.That task, however, would be made a whole lot easier with a new face in the squad.