FOR the second time in just under 10 months, I sat in the Press Room at St James’s Park and witnessed a Sunderland manager savouring a derby victory.
Gus Poyet may have been a bit more understated than Paolo Di Canio was last season but it was clear it meant just as much to him.
The result was exactly the same as last year’s but I felt Saturday’s win was better, as I felt Sunderland dominated the game and won more convincingly.
From the start, Sunderland played the game at their own tempo.
They dictated the play and after going a goal up, never looked like allowing Newcastle back into the game.
The 3-0 scoreline didn’t flatter Sunderland – Adam Johnson hit the woodwork and Jozy Altidore should have scored when one-on-one with Tim Krul – and Sunderland were the better team on the day.
Sunderland looked the fitter and stronger team and won the battle in the middle of the park, where Liam Bridcutt, Ki Sung-Yueng and Jack Colback took control and ran the game.
Poyet obviously had a lot of confidence in young Bridcutt, throwing him straight into a derby game, and he quickly got to grips with his role, keeping the team ticking over and rarely wasting possession.
Jozy Altidore has his critics and with his goalscoring record, he can’t complain about that. But I thought on Saturday his all-round game was excellent, holding the ball up well and using his strength and power to lead the line as well as he has done all season.
Newcastle ran out of ideas and unsurprisingly lacked confidence after going two goals down inside the first 25 minutes, and resorted to long balls up to Shola Ameobi, but this was meat and drink to Wes Brown and John O’Shea and their experience shone out like a beacon.
Sunderland are looking the real deal away from home now and you have to go back to November to find their last away defeat.
More importantly, Sunderland’s win on Saturday was the first time this season they have put together back-to-back wins and the result has been a surge up the table.
Saturday’s win was a great team performance. There wasn’t a weak link in the side and every player did exactly what Gus Poyet would have wished for, as the team plan and tactics were executed perfectly.