Norwich and Sunderland share prizes

Sunderland 1 Norwich City 0
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The Independent Football

Rarely can a losing side have launched such joyous post-match celebrations, but then not every day is a defeat accompanied by the First Division title.

Rarely can a losing side have launched such joyous post-match celebrations, but then not every day is a defeat accompanied by the First Division title.

Such is the entente cordiale between these two clubs, for nearly two decades they have played each other for the Friendly Cup. However, Norwich City, who were already guaranteed their first crack at the Premiership in nine years, will happily relinquish that particular pot, as they have some altogether more significant silverware to collect.

Second-placed West Bromwich Albion's capitulation at Stoke City meant that Norwich were champions, despite their run of seven victories being brought to a halt by Carl Robinson's powerful header moments before the interval, the midfielder's first goal on an extended loan from Portsmouth.

A first win in six games meant Sunderland could justifiably gatecrash the celebrations, after finally booking their place in the play-offs. Never has the Stadium of Light seen such an outbreak of unbridled joy on both sides.

Much work still lies ahead for Mick McCarthy if he is to orchestrate an immediate top flight return, but for Norwich it is job done.

Their manager, Nigel Worthington, will today take his squad to a celebratory lunch, before they receive the First Division championship, the third time they have proved to be the best side in English football's second tier in the past three decades, at a civic reception in the city on Monday.

"Once we'd gained promotion we wanted the title," Worthington said. "We're disappointed to lose tonight but the boys deserve everything they've got. It means a lot to finish as champions and I'm pleased for everyone involved with the club. We've been through some lean times, but when the good times come like this, you have to enjoy it. I've cracked open the champagne but I've not had chance to drink any because I'm drenched in the stuff. In management this is my first big achievement and I'm very proud of it."

Sunderland complete their campaign at Burnley on Sunday before embarking on the play-offs in the kind of Jekyll and Hyde form which makes it difficult to predict their fate.

McCarthy said: "It's an achievement for the club to be in the play-offs. After losing our first two games this season we've come a hell of a long way, and the players deserve credit because I'm very proud of them.

"We've earned our right to be there, and I'm pleased for the lads. Everyone who has come into the side has contributed hugely to the cause, and despite how I may seem, I'm very pleased and I'm not bothered who we play"

Sunderland (4-4-2) Poom; Bjorklund, Breen, Babb, McCartney; Oster, Robinson, Whitley, Thornton; Stewart (Smith, 79), Kyle. Substitutes not used: Clark, Byfield, Ramsden, Myhre (gk).

Norwich City (4-4-2) Green; Edworthy, Mackay, Fleming, Drury; Huckerby, Holt, Francis, Cooper (Mulryne, 63); McKenzie (McVeigh, 63), Svensson (Roberts, 86). Substitutes not used: Brennan, Crichton (gk).

Referee: D Pugh (Merseyside).

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