Sunderland 1 Cardiff City 2: Sunderland feel force of Chopra's progression

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The Independent Football

Michael Chopra, the Cardiff City forward, realised a boyhood dream when he scored his first League goal for his hometown club, Newcastle United, at the Stadium of Light last season. These days the Bluebirds' leading scorer is more man than boy and a well-taken double at this happiest of hunting grounds offered further evidence of a one-time child prodigy growing up fast.

Chopra relished his final, decisive act in a black-and-white shirt and even if he will never be revered on Tyneside like his idol and mentor, Alan Shearer, the 22-year-old will, at the very least, be remembered fondly by Magpies supporters for scoring his only Premiership goal against United's bitter rivals. Never given an opportunity to prove his predatory class at St James's Park, Chopra was allowed to follow the retired Shearer out of Newcastle two weeks before Michael Owen was seriously injured in the World Cup.

In coolly dispatching his ninth and 10th Championship goals of the season, the former England Under-21 international reminded those watching from north of the Tyne just how costly that decision could prove. For Chopra's manager, Dave Jones, the nature of the victory rather than the significance of his summer signing's goals provided greater satisfaction and he said: "I really enjoyed the first 45 minutes. You saw two teams who played some super football and we were fortunate to finish the first half on top.

"We got our noses in front and it was all about keeping a clean sheet in the second half. But we knew that if Sunderland forced the issue we were always capable of breaking away and doing further damage."

Sunderland never appeared capable of forcing the issue from the moment Chopra first exposed the defensive deficiencies which have continually derailed any progress on Wearside for the past 18 months. Both Cardiff goals were carbon copies, sandwiching Chris Brown's headed equaliser after eight minutes, and the Sunderland manager Roy Keane winced as the same naïve mistakes were replicated before the break. Twice Chopra lingered with intent in the six-yard area and twice he was given the room to pick his spot.

"The two goals Chopra scored were very disappointing from our point of view," Keane said. "I was the nearest man to him on both occasions. We were poor in every department and there were no positives. There is something running through this club which must be stopped."

Sunderland (4-4-2): Ward; N Collins (Kavanagh, 69), Varga, D Collins, Nyatanga; Lawrence (Leadbitter, 69), Whitehead, Yorke, Hysen; Brown (S Elliott, 82), Murphy. Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Caldwell.

Cardiff City (4-4-2): Alexander; Chambers, Purse, Loovens, McNaughton (Kamara, 86); Parry, Scimeca, McPhail, Ledley; Thompson (Campbell, h-t), Chopra. Substitutes not used: Howard (gk), Johnson, Flood.

Referee: C Boyeson (Yorkshire).