March 5, 2012 in Premier League
The rivalry between Newcastle United and Sunderland is one of the most intense and fiercest rivalries in Premier League history. Their latest match was no different; a game that featured eight yellow cards, two red cards, two penalties, and an injury time leveller, this was a match that any neutral supporter could watch with amazement.
As the first half started off, the tone of the game was set, with Lee Cattermole being booked after 38 seconds for a challenge I thought was a red card offence, as he scissored the ankle of Cheick Tiote, which could have resulted in a serious injury for the tough Ivorian. It didn’t calm down from there on in until around the 25th minute, with six yellow cards being produced by the hard-worked Mike Dean, who really had his work cut out. In the 19th minute, a full scale riot broke out between the two teams after Danny Simpson felt that he was tackled a little bit too roughly by James McClean.
And although Sunderland may have initiated the contest of who was tougher, Newcastle got carried away, culminating in Mike Williamson giving away a needless penalty in the 24th minute, leading to the opener with Nicklas Bendtner tucking away the spot kick. For the rest of the first half, Newcastle didn’t really feature in the game, instead getting caught up in a competition of who could foul each other more. The first real chances for Newcastle came from corners, with Fabricio Coloccini heading towards goal, which led to a comfortable save from Simon Mignolet, and Demba Ba rattling the ball off the crossbar just before half time.
However, the second half featured an amazing turnaround from Newcastle. Alan Pardew brought on Hatem Ben Arfa for Davide Santon, and that spelt trouble for Kieran Richardson, who just simply couldn’t handle the skilled Frenchman. As Newcastle built up pressure with corner after corner in the first 10 minutes of the second half, things became too much for Sunderland. As they briefly got the ball out of the penalty area and near the Newcastle half, Stephane Sessegnon was trapped by two players, and lashed out with his hand at Tiote, who should win an Oscar for his amateur dramatics. Nonetheless, it was an action that warranted a red card, and from then on in, Sunderland were in increasing trouble.
Sunderland dealt with attack after attack well, at least until the introduction of Shola Ameobi, who came on at the same time at Fraizer Campbell, and the two would go on to meet in the 83rd minute. Ameobi got the ball in the box, Campbell slid in unnecessarily and brought him down. Another penalty, and up stepped the always-deadly Demba Ba, but Mignolet was equal to his effort, leaving Newcastle fans in despair, hoping that a goal would come from somewhere. And it did! Shola Ameobi crept in at the far post after a Gutierrez cross, and poked the ball in, with Mignolet helpless. This caused unbridled joy for the Toon fans, who had once again seen Shola Ameobi step up against the Mackems, and score his 7th goal in 12 games against them.
A red-hot affair at the best of times, this game was no different. I think Newcastle fans will be the happier bunch after this result, seeing as Sunderland will now be heading into their next three games without the increasingly-influential Sessegnon, as well as their captain Lee Cattermole after he was shown a straight red card after the final whistle for his abusive language towards the referee.
In summary, the first half of this match was an ugly game for both teams, with Sunderland grabbing the edge. But in the second half, Newcastle showed why they are still a team challenging for a Champions League spot, with a brilliant attacking force complemented by a tough tackling midfield and defence. However, I feel that if they do manage to grab that final spot in the top four, they will need to upgrade their defence, and that will be a top priority. Williamson is a man that in the last 2 or 3 months has shown why he is only back up to the first team, causing many breaks in a back four that at the beginning of the season had only conceded 8 goals in 11 games.
Next fixtures for both teams will be tough tests; Sunderland host Liverpool, and will see if they can regain their form under Martin O’Neill, and Newcastle travel to face Arsenal in what has to be a must-win game for the Geordies if they want to keep challenging for that fourth spot that Arsenal currently hold on to.