How quickly things can change in football. Not so long ago, Tottenham Hotspur were out of the FA Cup, having been banned by the Football Association for some indiscretions behind the scenes. Reinstated, they are now in the last 16 after a comfortable victory at Roker Park and looking forward to a home tie against either Luton Town or Southampton.
Two seasons ago, Sunderland played Liverpool in the Cup final. Now they are left with only a First Division relegation battle to face, and the agony of a terrible home record goes on.
They have won only two matches out of 17 at home this season, and they never looked like winning this one.
They did show tremendous spirit throughout a goalless first half, performing better than even their most ardent supporter dared to expect, but after the interval Spurs strode home.
Mind you, the Londoners were helped by the dismissal of Sunderland's captain, Gary Bennett, in the 50th minute for making a brilliant one-handed save to keep out a shot by Gica Popescu that had defeated the home goalkeeper, Alec Chamberlain.
Bennett, who had been clearly the best of Sunderland's three central defenders to that point, ruefully admitted his save "was just instinct" and acknowledged that his dismissal had cost his side the game. Once he was gone and Jurgen Klinsmann had put away the resulting penalty, there could be only one winner.
Klinsmann's presence in the Tottenham team is of considerable significance to his hope of fulfilling his ambition of appearing in a Wembley final this season. He was in danger of missing the match after his clattering collision with Aston Villa's goalkeeper, Mark Bosnich, on Wednesday night, but, having suffered no broken bones, he managed to put both the physical effects and potential psychological ones behind him.
The German, who went on to score the final Spurs goal four minutes from time, said: "I was glad that I was able to play today, for the FA Cup in England is very important and a big tradition."
The penalty was particularly timely as Spurs still had the half-time comments of Gerry Francis ringing in their ears. The Spurs manager admitted to having made "a few comments" during the interval, "but we really got into it in the second half. We've gotto be delighted," Francis said. "We've scored four away from home and could have had a few more."
Sheringham scored the second in the 56th minute, turning Lee Howey on the right, cutting in and shooting across goal into the far corner of the net. The third, in the 64th minute, was an own-goal by the defender, Andy Melville, although he did not know too much about it. A blistering shot by Gary Mabbutt was covered by Chamberlain until the ball took a deflection off Melville and spun to the other side of the keeper.
Finally, with just four minutes remaining, Klinsmann headed the final goal from Sheringham's cross, and that was his 18th of the season.
It was not quite all Spurs though. After 73 minutes Phil Gray scored a consolation goal with a left-foot shot from a cross by Martin Scott, and towards the end they began to worry Spurs with some late pressure.
It might have been different if Melville had not headed wide from a Craig Russell cross just a minute before Klinsmann's final goal, and probably would have been, had Sunderland notmissed a couple of good chances in the first half. Spurs made that profligacy costly after the break.
Sunderland (5-3-2): Chamberlain; Kubicki, Howey, Bennett, Melville, Scott; Smith, Armstrong (Martin Gray, 83), Ferguson; P Gray, Russell. Substitutes not used: Michael Gray, Norman (gk).
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Walker; Edinburgh, Campbell, Calderwood, Mabbutt; Anderton, Howells (Nethercott, 87), Popescu, Barmby; Sheringham, Klinsmann. Substitutes not used: Caskey, Day (gk).
Referee: D Reed (Birmingham).
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