Football Echo Verdict: How good was that for Sunderland!

Fabio Borini congratules Jack Colback on his killer third goal at Newcastle
Fabio Borini congratules Jack Colback on his killer third goal at Newcastle
54
Have your say

“THINGS can only get better” was again the raucous chant of a delirious away end as they took souvenir photographs while they waited to be let out of St James’s Park.

Well, how much better can it get?

The last fortnight has been just about as perfect as Gus Poyet could have wished for.

Seven points from three Premier League games, progress in the FA Cup, a Wembley final to look forward to and another 3-0 derby victory over Newcastle United, which was far more comprehensive than last season’s win by the same scoreline.

The derby statistics make fabulous reading for Sunderland fans – three wins over the Magpies for the first time since 1923 and the double over the Magpies for the first time since 1967.

But it was the manner by which Poyet’s men simply swatted Newcastle aside which made this such a memorable afternoon on Tyneside... again.

There was a nervousness among Newcastle fans from the off – the vitriol directed towards the Sunderland as they stepped off the team bus or the wall of noise when the two sides emerged from the tunnel, lacked it’s usual intensity.

And once Fabio Borini had broken the deadlock with an ice-cool spot-kick, Sunderland utterly controlled proceedings.

Newcastle’s tactics came from the dark ages – hoof it forwards to Shola Ameobi and hope someone picked up the knockdown.

In contrast, Sunderland were composed and precise as they knocked the ball around and picked out holes in a fragile Magpies back-line.

After a nervy opening 10 minutes, debutant Liam Bridcutt proved to be the conduct of the orchestrator, as Poyet has envisaged for the former Brighton midfielder at the Stadium of Light.

Bridcutt wasn’t flashy. But he did the simple things – barking instructions to Ki Sung-Yueng and the superb Jack Colback, nicking possession away and setting Sunderland’s tempo.

Considering the 24-year-old had enjoyed just one training session with his new team-mates, it was a superbly assured display.

Up front, Jozy Altidore was like a new signing too.

Something has finally clicked for the American international over the last two games.

Altidore’s failure to go around Newcastle stopper Tim Krul – just before Colback sealed proceedings – denied the £6million frontman a much-needed confidence boost in front of goal.

But Altidore’s hold-up play, first touch and positioning were all excellent, particularly the sublime back-heel into the path of Colback for Adam Johnson’s goal.

Colback deservedly got on the scoresheet himself after making the most of the attacking licence granted him by the inclusion of the defensive-minded Bridcutt.

And that killer third goal allowed both players and supporters to enjoy the finale, safe in the knowledge that there was no prospect of a comeback from a Newcastle side, whose pressure was limited to a five-minute spell midway through the second half.

Even then, Sunderland’s immaculate defence never looked particularly worried – typified by Phil Bardsley picking Hatem Ben Arfa’s pocket twice within as many minutes.

Colback’s goal predictably sparked ugly scenes inside St James’s Park.

There were pitch invasions by a couple of idiots and angry chants against both Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley.

But while Newcastle’s season has effectively ground to a halt and the inquest is firmly underway into the club’s transfer policy, Sunderland’s campaign is lifting off.

Back-to-back league wins for the first time in 2013-14 far from make it a case of job done. Another four victories will be needed to reach the finishing line.

Yet Sunderland are soaring upwards and their precarious situation in the relegation battle isn’t look quite so worrying.

Twitter @youngsunecho