IN a season which saw Sunderland reach a Capital One Cup final and humble mighty Manchester United and Chelsea on their own grounds, supporters in our annual SAFC survey suggest there’s still nothing to beat a bit of Magpie slaying.
February’s 3-0 victory over local rivals Newcastle United at St James’s Park was voted far and away Sunderland’s best performance of the season by fans.
Goals from Fabio Borini, Adam Johnson and Jack Colback inflicted a second consecutive 3-0 St James’s Park derby defeat on Alan Pardew’s men and gave Sunderland fans not only the first double over their neighbours since the 1960s but a victory to be celebrated in song, memorabilia and video.
That performance polled almost half the votes in our survey when it came to selecting the best display of the campaign – nearly twice as many as its nearest rival, the 2-1 Premier League victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
That win was as amazing as it was unexpected.
The banner draped in the away end on that balmy (barmy) afternoon, “Miracles Do Happen, Gus”, said it all.
No-one was expecting a Black Cats win and an end to Jose Mourinho’s 77-game unbeaten home league streak at Stamford Bridge, but that’s what happened as Connor Wickham’s opener and Fabio Borini’s penalty gave momentum to Sunderland’s Great Escape bid.
The third most popular game with supporters was the 2-2 midweek draw away to Manchester City which preceded the visit to Chelsea.
Arguably this was Sunderland’s best footballing performance of the whole campaign – certainly boss Gus Poyet thought so – even though it ended only with a share of the spoils.
Vito Mannone’s late spillage of Samir Nasri’s shot prevented a Sunderland victory in the game, but it didn’t erase the impressiveness of a Black Cats’ display at the Etihad which shocked the side who would go on to become Premier League champions.
Three other games drew large numbers of votes – the shoot-out victory over Manchester United in the Capital One Cup semi-final at Old Trafford, the league win over Manchester United in the Premier League and the thumping of Cardiff City at the Stadium of Light.
The emphatic 4-0 win over the Bluebirds at the end of April saw Sunderland emerge from the relegation six-pointer as favourites to stay up and all but doomed the Welshmen.
A brace from Wickham, a penalty from Borini and a well-worked finish from substitute Emmanuele Giaccherini sent the fans home relieved and happy.
The victories over Manchester United were two real high points for the Black Cats and Poyet’s men played well in both to earn their victories.
Having pushed United all the way in the 90 minutes of normal time and an epic 30 minutes of extra time in the semi-final second leg, it was left to keeper Vito Mannone to be Sunderland’s penalty shoot-out hero.
Lightning struck twice when the Black Cats got their second win on Old Trafford soil four months later, this time holding Ryan Giggs’ men before and after Seb Larsson’s classily taken goal midway through the first half.
All those games gave fans fantastic days to remember, but there other memorable matches too, with readers giving honourable mentions to the home victories over Newcastle United and Manchester City, the away win at Everton and the Capital One Cup first leg semi-final win over Manchester United.
* See today’s Sunderland Echo for your comments on the best performances of the season