A Fan's View: Sunderland 2 Albion 3
By Site Editor
Updated Sunday, 10th April 2011
DonnyValdo gives his verdict on Albion's win
It was a case of planes, trains and automobiles yesterday for me. It was all planned a few weeks ago. I’d travel to the Isle of Man on Thursday morning for the funeral of a close friend from University the day after. Then, on Saturday travel to the game well in advance of kick off.
So, up at 6am on Saturday morning to get the 7.30am flight to Liverpool. Then, after a couple of train connections I’d arrive in Sunderland to meet my Dad, who had taken advantage of the club’s offer of free coach travel to The Stadium of Light. It was destined to go wrong wasn’t it?
Well it did. On the plane I got – even ahead of schedule. However, that’s when my plan all came crashing down – thankfully not literally! As we waited at the start of the runway the pilot radioed through that the plane had a technical problem and the engineer would need 30 minutes to rectify the problem. I knew already at approximately 7.25am that I wasn’t going to make kick off. I was eventually to take off at 10.15am missing my connecting trains.
I eventually landed at Liverpool, caught a bus to the train station, ran along the platform to catch the train to Manchester. I must admit I ‘dodged’ the fair to Manchester but was told it’d cost me an additional £50 to travel to Sunderland – regardless of the unused ticket in my back pocket.
After dissecting the beautiful countryside of northern England and travelling through Huddersfield, Leeds and York, then along the north-east coast I finally arrived in Sunderland at 3.10pm. I ran to the nearest taxi where I was to be met with the news the Baggies were already a goal down.
I arrived at the ground at 3.20pm to meet my Dad and a wall of Albion fans. Just what I needed after a tough few days to bring a smile to my face.
Wonderful Roy Hodgson decided to stick with the side which had disposed of Liverpool the weekend before. Simon Cox keeping his attacking midfield role, despite James Morrison recovering from the thigh injury which had sidelined him against the Reds.
You’ll have to excuse my absence for the first 25 minutes. I missed the own goal by Nicky Shorey but took my seat just in time for the equaliser. Sunderland’s captain Lee Cattermole fouled Youssouf Mulumbu giving Chris Brunt the opportunity to swing in a free kick from the right. Brunt obliged and found an excellent header at the far post by Paul Scharner. Jonas Olsson was unable to flick on Scharner’s downward header but stayed forward as the Black Cats failed to clear properly. The ball found Jerome Thomas on the left who found Olsson unmarked on the penalty spot. The Swede headed goalwards and found the poaching Peter Odemwingie to poke home from close range.
From where I was jumping around I was unsure at first whether it was Odemwingie or Cox which had stabbed home. But I was in no doubt when the Albion’s fans’ new song for Pistol Pete silenced the home crowd. Two minutes later the roles were reversed.
Asamoah Gyan danced between Paul Scharner and Youssouf Mulumbu a little too easy as he looked to get a shot away. Scharner ensured he didn’t by catching the Ghanaian’s trailing leg. Former Albion Great Escape hero Kieran Richardson rolled the ball only a couple of yards to right back Phil Bardsley who smashed the ball into the top of the net giving Carson no chance from a good 25-yards. Suddenly we had nothing to shout about.
For the first time under Hodgson, Albion looked rattled and a little disorganised. Sunderland rallied and pressed forward but the excellent Jonas Olsson and Abdoulaye Meite in the heart of Albion’s defence held firm and ensured the visitors trailed only by a single goal at half time.
After the break
Whatever Roy said at half time worked. Albion came out with purpose, a game plan, and the intention to get back on level terms. Our organisation was back. Cattermole, who had earlier been booked for a tackle on Steven Reid, was toothless as Paul Scharner began to dominate the midfield. The Austrian used the ball efficiently, was strong in the tackle and won every header when the ball came his way.
The Baggies upped the tempo of their passing; Cox was working hard in the ‘hole’ – excuse the pun – with Brunt a constant threat as he drifted inside. It was only a matter of time before we equalised. In fact, I’d like to take some credit! I may have been a good distance away from the action, but I believe my words of wisdom inspired the stars in stripes.
“I tell you what Dad,” I said, “Sunderland are s**t!” With a nod of the head, he agreed. Moments later we were level and on the way to a memorable victory. Albion patiently worked the ball from left to right. Mulumbu chipped a clever ball through to Odemwingie who danced his way into the area before passing the ball back to the midfielder. Mulumbu kept calm and, with the outside of his foot, rolled the ball along the ground in off the post. I was celebrating before the ball went in the net. Albion were level. You knew there was only going to be one winner from there in.
Chris Brunt had two central efforts before whipping in an inviting free kick after Paul Scharner had been blocked off. The Northern Ireland international’s cross found the head of Jonas Olsson six yards out who headed down and goalwards. Mignolet made a wonderful reflex save to deny Albion the lead for the first time in the game.
But it was only a matter of time before we were celebrating en masse in the away end again. Reminiscent of the second goal, Albion worked the ball intelligently from left to right. Cox, in a central position, rolled the ball out to Reid. The right back fed Peter Odemwingie who squared for Paul Scharner to fire home at the near post. The Stadium of Light was again brightened up by the joyous celebrations of Baggies fans as Scharner slid on his knees in front of the travelling fans. If Albion could hang on, we sensed we were in touching distance of survival.
Roy Hodgson’s, Paul Scharner’s, Peter Odemwingie’s, Chris Brunt’s and Youssouf Mulumbu’s name were all sung out as Albion edged towards three valuable points.
The onslaught which many of us expected in the away end never really came. Apart from Malbranque on the right and the unexpected nature of Gyan, Sunderland really didn’t have any attacking flair or creativity.
Welbeck broke clear after the fourth official had raised the board to signal five minutes of added time, but fired over from 18 yards in stoppage time.
The final whistle was blown much to the delight of Albion’s management, players and fans. On rushed the subs from the bench to congratulate and celebrate those still on the field. Apart from Gabriel Tamas who walked straight down the tunnel, every Albion player came to celebrate in front of the fans. Paul Scharner and Abdoulaye Meite even joined in with the Boinging on the terraces.
But there was to be more drama for me. My Dad, who had travelled up alone, couldn’t remember where our coach had parked. Luckily, Dave Holloway said we could jump on with him and we departed back to The Hawthorns with the big-wigs from Baggies Travel. The four hour journey passed in a flash with the knowledge we are now only a draw away from the magic 40-point mark.
I’m not sure what Roy Hodgson said at half time but it worked. From the half of the first half that I saw, we didn’t seem ourselves fully. Sure we equalised – and only went behind to an unstoppable free kick, but we seemed to lack the crisp passing and organisation which has quickly become our trademark under Roy.
But, not for the first time this season, we came back from behind and in the end deserved all three points. The win moved us on to 39 points and into tenth place in the league! I can only think that Roy is a magician. He’s arguably the best signing the club has ever made. We’ve retained our attacking intent which we had under Mowbray and Di Matteo, but he’s combined that with the defensive steel we had under Gary Megson. At the moment I can’t wait to watch us the week after!
COME ON YOU BAGGIES!
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