Perhaps it was fitting that Leeds were denied a moment of glory, at the death, by a piece of steel. Much has happened to these football clubs since the moment that will entwine them together in FA Cup folklore.
The victorious Sunderland team of 1973, then in the Second Division, who beat the mighty Leeds, were paraded before this game. There will always be a place for that side in the supporters’ hearts. There is a statue of Bob Stokoe outside the Stadium of Light, in his hat and his jacket and his football boots as he races to embrace Jimmy Montgomery at the game’s finish.
That was in celebration of the great double save that Montgomery produced, with the help of the crossbar, to deny Trevor Cherry and Peter Lorimer. He still watches the video of it with his wife.
Instead, when the opportunity came yesterday to grab the draw that would have taken the Premier League side back to Elland Road, captain Liam Cooper’s header cannoned back off the far post of Costel Pantilimon’s goal with the Sunderland keeper well beaten.
There were 5,400 Leeds fans there to see it and Gus Poyet, the Sunderland manager and a former Leeds coach, spoke of his admiration at the backing. “It was a big part of today,” he said. “There was more than 5,000. It shows the kind of fans they’ve got and where they should be.”
For Neil Redfearn, it was a head in hands moment. “I thought we played really well,” Leeds’ manager said. “We contained them and they had little flurries. The goal was good from their point of view.”
That had come in the 33rd minute. The recalled Patrick van Aanholt had already made a difference to Sunderland. Then, following a lay-off from Steven Fletcher, he drove in what proved to be the winning goal. It was a fine strike.
“In the second half we were the better side by a fair stretch,” added Redfearn. “We got at them and they struggled. We were really unlucky.”
Pantilimon did well to deny Adryan and Brian Montenegro early in the second half. Then Seb Larsson fell outside the box and his back caught the studs of Charlie Taylor, who by then was inside the penalty area.
“We hit the post and had a shout for a penalty and there was Adryan’s chance,” said Redfearn. “It looked a penalty to me. The ref has made a decision. A goal at that time would have made it 1-1 and we would have gone on to win it.”
Sunderland, who had controlled the first half, had chances of their own through Emanuele Giaccherini, Fletcher and Jordi Gomez.
Sunderland played a strong team and won. They had a strong bench too. There was a verbal message from Poyet to follow that particular statement. “I love the Cup, it’s great,” he said. “When it is special moments – when it’s close to the semi-finals against top teams – it brings the team together, especially with the fans.”Reuse content