Football: Sunderland evoke memories of past glory days

Sunderland 4 Chelsea 1
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The Independent Online
ED DE GOEY was not the only stunned Dutchman at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. Long after Chelsea's shell-shocked goalkeeper had disappeared into the tunnel, Hans de Roon was still standing next to his seat in the west stand, shaking his head.

"Unbelievable," said the long-distance Sunderland fan who took early retirement from his job as a clerk at Rotterdam town hall to live next door to his beloved red-and-whites in Roker Avenue and who, since moving back to the Netherlands last year, has endured a fortnightly 40-hour round trip by coach to watch what for him could hardly be described as home games.

"The disappointments over the years just make this all the sweeter," he added. "It has to be Sunderland's best performance in 120 years."

On the weekend Sunderland launched their first club history book, it certainly left veteran supporters searching way back in the memory bank for such a tour de force - all the way back to 5 May 1973 and that fairytale FA Cup final against Leeds.

It was the most stunning Sunderland display on Wearside since Bob Stokoe's stars outdazzled Manchester City in that Cup run, drew the loudest roar since that rousing Roker night and featured the most glorious goal since Vic Halom hammered a right foot thunderbolt past Joe Corrigan in the very same fifth-round replay.

Chelsea might have been without four of their leading lights but so were Sunderland. Seventeen weeks on from their opening day slaughter at Stamford Bridge, Peter Reid's revelations subjected Gianluca Vialli's boys in blue to an equally savage mauling. Chelsea and their championship ambitions were torn apart by a whirlwind first-half display of high-tempo, high- class precision play.

They were behind after 44 seconds, the time it took Niall Quinn to apply the finishing touch after Eric Roy ripped through Chelsea's rearguard. Quinn scored the fourth with a flashing left-foot volley seven minutes before half-time and in between Kevin Phillips bagged a brace of his own - the first an arcing right-foot volley that rivalled Halom's vintage strike for sheer panache.

Roy, a pounds 200,000 summer signing from Marseilles, was commanding in central midfield and Quinn and Phillips were quite magnificent up front, the big Irishman maintaining the rich vein of form he has struck at the age of 33 and the little Englishman taking his Premiership goals tally to 17 in 17 games.

Vialli bridled at the suggestion that the championship of Europe has overtaken the championship of England in the scheme of things at Stamford Bridge. "My priority is to win things in England, not Europe," he insisted. "But it is much easier to play in the Champions' League. The difficult thing is playing in the Premiership."

Indeed it is for Chelsea, who resume their European campaign in Rome tomorrow night against Lazio. Their top scorer in the Premiership, after his late consolation on Saturday, is Gustavo Poyet with five and they have dropped 18 points now on their domestic travels.

They are also 10 points behind Sunderland, whose manager happened to remark after that opening day battle at the Bridge that he "felt like Davy Crocket at the Alamo". Picking up the theme on Saturday night, Peter Reid said: "I felt like John Wayne today."

It is Chelsea, though, who are in need of true grit now.

Goals: Quinn (1) 1-0; Phillips (23) 2-0; Phillips (36) 3-0; Quinn (38) 4-0; Poyet (82) 4-1.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Williams, Craddock, Gray; Summerbee (Holloway, 84), Thirlwell, Roy, Schwarz; Phillips, Quinn. Substitutes not used: Oster, Reddy, T Butler, Marriott (gk).

Chelsea (4-4-1-1): De Goey; Lambourde, Desailly (Terry, h-t), Hogh, Babayaro; Wise (Wolleaston, 78), Morris, Poyet, Harley (Goldbaek, h-t); Zola; Flo. Substitutes not used: Petrescu, Cudicini (gk).

Referee: S Dunn (Bristol).

Bookings: Chelsea: Babayaro, Harley.

Man of the match: Phillips.

Attendance: 41,377.