Sunderland buzzing as England win first World Cup game against Tunisia
Hundreds of football fans packed into Sunderland City Centre last night to watch England see off Tunisia in their first match of the 2018 World Cup.
Sunderland AFC academy graduates Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford both made the starting line-up but Gareth Southgate’s men made heavy work of it, taking the lead early only to concede a soft penalty and struggling to assert themselves as the game wore on.
It was not until added-on time at the end of the second half that captain Harry Kane wrapped up all three points with his second goal of the game.
The flat nature of the second half meant the attention of the crowd in the Park Lane Fan Zone wandered and there were rowdy scenes, with frustrated spectators jostling and cans and plastic bottles and glasses thrown, though the mood was boisterous, rather than hostile, with no sign of any fighting and no reports of injuries.
The crowd quickly dispersed after the final whistle and Northumbria Police confirmed there had been no arrests.
Some fans were unhappy with the response to the disruption, with one blaming the police for failing to intervene: “I am amazed the police have not tried to support the event staff,” he said.
“They just stood there, letting the disorder go on and making no effort to prevent further behaviour that could have resulted in injury.”
Another man, who also did not want to be named, said: “I am born and bred Sunderland, I love my city, but I am embarrassed.”
But Joe Collins, from city centre business Holmeside Coffee, said he had enjoyed the event.
“I think it is great that people are coming out to support England,” he said.
“I think it has been a very positive evening.
“It is the first game, emotions are running high and there were a lot of young people here - I did not think it was that much of a problem.
“If you didn’t want to get involved, you didn’t have to.”
Gemma Dishman, from organisers Sunderland Bid, said: “It started out as a great night, passions were high as they always are around England games.
“Unfortunately the match on the screen got a bit flat and some of the crowd got distracted, but as soon as England started to play again, it calmed down and the crowd dispersed really quickly.
“The bars here have been really busy and we’re pleased with how many people have come out.
“It is about getting people into the city centre rather than sitting watching the match at home.
“The next England match is on Sunday, when the big screen will be in Low Row.
“It is a 1pm kick-off and the afternoon will be a real family event.”