It was a game that crackled and shook. No one pulled out of a challenge because when games are built up this much no one would want to be that player that jumped or dived, letting their opposite man thud a simpler pass to his mate or get that shot off from the edge of the box. In such matches one can ill afford to pull out because the added inch or the extra second can make the difference between achieving history and becoming the village idiot.
Local derbies make idiots of us all and on Sunday there was enough activity to reduce the most eloquent of fans to a series of shouts and gesticulations. It was not sophisticated, but the Tyne-Wear Derby had a lot of… incidents.
Games between Newcastle United and Sunderland are never calm and this game was no exception. At the Sports Direct Arena referee Mike Dean brandished his first yellow card of the day, one of 8, after 39 seconds. Lee Cattermole, Sunderland’s captain, slid in on Midfielder Cheik Tiote. Those two did battle for the rest of the day, with Tiote also earning one of those yellow cards later on.
It was no surprise, then, that there were also two penalties in the match. The first was taken by Sunderland’s Nicklas Bendtner who slotted to make it 1-0 on the 24th minute. The scoreline stayed thusly until injury time when substitute Shola Ameobi hit the ball into the ground, tight to the right post, and squeezed it past Sunderland goalkeeper Mignolet to render this one a draw.
Mignolet had previously done well, saving the second penalty on the 82nd minute from the normally ruthless Demba Ba.
That penalty was for a blatant sliding challenge on Ameobi from Sunderland’s Fraizer Campbell, but it was one of a series of silly challenges. For the most part the drama of this derby came from the flying challenges and the steady flow of fouls. There were 28 fouls in total and one red card was given in regulation time. There was even a red card once the final whistle went.
Between the first goal and the equalizer there was more than one moment where the players felt it necessary to rush in. One such moment was when creative midfielder Stephane Sessegnon was given a straight red card for swinging an elbow at Tiote. The Ivorian defensive player perhaps went down a little too theatrically but because of the intent behind it Mike Dean had no option but to reduce Sunderland to 10 men. Both parties said their piece.
The game crumpled into a draw and both teams would have been happy, but tempers did not settle after the event. As the players went to leave the field Sunderland’s Cattermole said something to the referee that he took offence to. A red was flashed again and the Black Cat’s captain will now face a ban for his ‘abuse’.
Both managers had plenty to say on this and although they were proud of the commitment of their own squads they felt it right to point out that the opposition were deserving of punishment.
For Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill he praised his team for a good first half and holding off until the end of play. He also felt that Tiote should have also received a red card for persistent fouling and that Newcastle may have influenced the referee at half-time.
At the home team’s end manager Alan Pardew heralded his side’s comeback, singling out the role of local hero Ameobi, who forced through the equalizer. He also felt that ‘celebrating’ the award of a penalty near Sunderland’s dugout was just the occasion getting to an ‘old manager’. He also blamed any undue tensions on Sunderland’s banished captain.
For the neutral it was a case of the referee putting in a strong performance whilst many lost their heads about him. Few can argue with the result. It was another quintessentially English, but none the less enthralling, spectacle.