Fabio Borini springs from bench to win it for Sunderland
Dream home debut and result for new boss Gus Poyet as Black Cats take derby
Sunderland’s Fabio Borini celebrates scoring his side’s winner during the Premier League match against Newcastle at the Stadium of Light. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA
Sunderland 2 Newcastle 1: Alan Pardew predicted that this latest derby would be decided by an inspired substitution and he was proved right. Unfortunately for Newcastle United’s manager the decisive change was made by Gus Poyet whose introduction of Fabio Borini paid dividends when the Liverpool loanee scored a sublime winner to offer Sunderland a Premier League lifeline.
Played against a background of swirling wind and driving rain, their first win of a hitherto sorry season made Poyet’s home debut one to savour although it is unlikely to be a memory relished by Pardew.
Supposedly anxious to atone for April’s 3-0 defeat to Paolo Di Canio’s then side on Tyneside, Newcastle under-achieved horribly and Mike Ashley, their owner, is now likely to be asking all sorts of awkward questions of his manager.
The game had barely begun before the ground echoed to choruses of “Steven Fletcher, he scores when he wants”. Ankle and shoulder injuries have deprived Sunderland of Fletcher’s attacking potency in recent months but, finally fully fit again, the Scotland striker did not take long to remind everyone of Newcastle’s vulnerability when it comes to defending set pieces.
His goal began with Adam Johnson’s fifth-minute corner. It was played short to Sebastian Larsson who passed back to Johnson whose ensuing far-post cross eluded Pardew’s defence, allowing Fletcher to escape the outjumped Paul Dummett’s attentions and head beyond Tim Krul.
That concession made it a tough baptism for Dummett, the young homegrown Newcastle left back making his first Premier League start out of position at centre half after Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini both failed late fitness tests.
Watching Krul sprawling to splendidly repel a subsequent Fletcher shot it seemed hard to credit that Sunderland had only one point from eight League games but at least Ellis Short is prepared to accept some of the blame.
It has become increasingly rare for men in power to admit publicly to mistakes so hats off to Sunderland’s owner, for apologising to fans in the match programme.
This admission related to his appointment and swift dismissal of Paolo Di Canio. “The club has been in turmoil,” acknowledged Short. “I have to take the blame for that. Clearly at least one of the decisions I made over the last several months was the wrong one. We could never have imagined in our worst nightmare being in the position we are now in.”
In time Short might not need to be quite so hard on himself. Change was desperately needed at Sunderland and, even if Di Canio went the wrong way about implementing it, his reforms have arguably made Poyet’s task appreciably easier. The best case scenario is that a chapter from Arsenal’s past will eventually be recalled and Di Canio regarded as Bruce Rioch to Poyet’s Arsène Wenger.
Back in the present Newcastle – who have generally been playing pretty well this season – were having a few too many nightmarish moments for Pardew’s liking. Growing Tyneside frustration manifested itself when Cheik Tioté, the visiting captain, was a little lucky to escape unpunished for using his arms to shove Larsson in the face and again, as Yohan Cabaye was booked for a rather spiteful knee-high tackle on Jack Colback.
Often conceding possession far too cheaply, Newcastle were finding Colback and Lee Cattermole a perhaps unexpected handful in central midfield and the upshot was that the dangerous Loïc Rémy barely touched the ball during the entire first half.
Similarly Hatem Ben Arfa, deployed at the centre of Pardew’s attacking trinity in a 4-3-3 formation, was forced ever deeper and frequently found himself second guessed by Cattermole.
It was no surprise when Pardew opted to mirror Poyet’s 4-4-2 after half-time, a switch which involved replacing Moussa Sissoko with Papiss Cissé and relocating Ben Arfa to the left wing.
Ben Arfa’s low cross-shot precipitated the equaliser, Mathieu Debuchy nipping in at the far post – dodging the supposedly back-tracking Johnson en route – to tap the ball past Keiren Westwood and preface just about Pardew’s sole smile since kick off.
Now it was Poyet’s turn to look thoroughly fed up; even if the frowns very nearly disappeared when Borini – on for Johnson – saw a shot squirm through the advancing Krul’s legs before the goalkeeper pulled off a last ditch recovery save before it crossed the line.
Undeterred, Borini won it courtesy of a superlative 20 yard drive, the ball evading Krul as it arced imperiously towards the top corner following a slick build up involving Ki Sung-Yueng and Colback, completed by Jozy Altidore’s adroit lay off into the Italian’s path.