Wear on the march
Chris Burton takes a look at the main talking points from a Tyne-Wear derby which saw Sunderland stun local rivals Newcastle United.
Last Updated: 14/04/13 7:08pm
Both sides could have done with taking the points from an eagerly-anticipated Tyne-Wear derby, with it having been some time since there was so much riding on a meeting between Newcastle United and Sunderland.
In the end it was the Black Cats that got the cream, with a 3-0 victory offering their Premier League survival bid a timely shot in the arm.
Paolo Di Canio's arrival at the Stadium of Light appears to have had the desired effect, as he kicks every ball on the touchline, while Newcastle look tired and need to find inspiration from somewhere if they are to avoid being dragged into trouble.
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew welcomed back Mathieu Debuchy, Steven Taylor and Cheick Tiote from injury as he fielded his strongest possible side. The trio all missed Thursday evening's 1-1 Europa League draw with Benfica, but returned alongside Yoan Gouffran and Sylvain Marveaux.
New Sunderland manager Di Canio was able to include Newcastle fan Danny Graham after injury and drafted in defender Carlos Cuellar and winger James McClean in place of Connor Wickham, Matt Kilgallon and the suspended Craig Gardner.
With Newcastle having flattered to deceive, it is difficult to pinpoint what they were hoping to achieve. They looked leggy from the off and were unable to work the ball into wide areas. They did have pace on the flanks, but they struggled to piece together a Plan B when faced with stubborn resistance. Papiss Cisse did pose a threat up top, but he cannot do it all on his own and needs support from those behind him. The return of Hatem Ben Arfa could offer the creative spark the Magpies need.
Sunderland set up to make life difficult for Newcastle, with it clear that they felt counter attacks would provide their best chance of grabbing the points. They were proved correct, with all three of their goals seeing them catch the home side cold and produce some spectacular finishing. Di Canio also appears to have made set-pieces an important part of his plans, with training ground routines aplenty offered up at St James' Park.
Pardew turned to his bench at half-time, as Newcastle trailed 1-0, with Shola Ameobi's derby record making him an obvious candidate to enter the fray. In truth, he offered very little, with one wayward effort towards the end suggesting his radar was well out of tune. The Magpies were forced into replacing Tim Krul with back-up keeper Rob Elliot, and he could do nothing about the two goals he conceded. Ben Arfa made a welcome return from injury in place of Yohan Cabaye, but he looked a little rusty and planted one free header over the crossbar from close range.
Di Canio also saw his hand forced by injury, with Phil Bardsley picking up a knock which led to Jack Colback's introduction. He helped to keep Sunderland ticking over, as they had to tweak their plans slightly. Vaughan was next to be introduced, and he made the most telling impact as he crashed home the Black Cats' third high into the top corner. Carlos Cuellar appeared to be struggling slightly as he made his way off to be replaced by Kader Mangane - a man who made his Premier League bow at St James' Park and will feel that he has plenty more to offer.
Derbies are notoriously difficult to keep a lid on, and Howard Webb produced four yellow cards in the first half. There could be few complaints about any of them, with Yoan Gouffran fortunate to remain on the field after coming over the top of the ball to catch Adam Johnson on the ankle. Webb also waved away a number of penalty appeals, and Danny Graham had every right to feel aggrieved at having been denied a spot-kick when clearly tugged by Steven Taylor early on. Arguably the biggest decision of the game was made by an assistant referee, not Webb, as Cisse saw a second half effort wrongly ruled out for offside.
Cisse could have had a hat-trick, but ended up drawing a blank. Immediately after Sunderland broke the deadlock, he was denied on two occasions by spectacular stops from Simon Mignolet. The first of those saw the Sunderland keeper put in a sprawling block, before then diving low to his left to keep out a sweeping drive from the middle of the box.
Adam Johnson has struggled at times to show his true form in a Sunderland shirt, but he will take plenty of positives from his latest outing. He was not at his sparkling best on Sunday, but lashed home a cracking 25-yard drive to put the Black Cats two goals to the good. Stephane Sessegnon, who has been among Sunderland's most consistent performers this season, also caught the eye, as he broke the deadlock and posed a considerable threat from a deep-lying attacking post.
Newcastle may be sat 13th in the table, but that does not tell the whole story. They have now suffered three defeats in their last four league outings and are only five points clear of the drop zone with five games remaining. They have some testing ties to come - against the likes of Liverpool, West Ham and Arsenal - so need to get to 40 points as soon as possible.
Sunderland are also chasing that target, which sits six points out of reach at present. They should be in buoyant mood heading forward and will feel that there are wins to be had in their upcoming fixtures. The Black Cats are due to face fellow strugglers Aston Villa, Stoke City and Southampton consecutively and know they must take more points from that run than they squander.