Kevin Garside: Final day coverage lifted by a penalty row, a cold sponge and a Gareth Bale screamer
The assumption Spurs would bury Sunderland was universally made
Super Sunday turned funereal, Arsenal's early second-half goal draining the dramatic tension from the afternoon, shifting the focus from Champions League qualification to those who would be leaving us. Sir Alex Ferguson at the Hawthorns then over to Anfield for Jamie Carragher's parting.
With only one outcome to decide, there was little hope of matching the excitement of last season's denouement or even the final day in the Championship, for which the coverage of Hull manager, Steve Bruce, frying on the touchline during a frantic fixture at home to Cardiff deserved a Bafta for the boys at Sky Sports.
Beneath them Watford might have nicked the automatic promotion slot, Bolton were denied a play-off place by a late goal from Leicester at Nottingham Forest and at the bottom Barnsley, Huddersfield and Peterborough flirted with the trap door before it finally slammed shut on the Posh. The Sky panel were in foment.
The burn yesterday was slow. Jamie Redknapp admitted he had no clue what might happen. All about what Arsenal do, said Gary Neville, "One last twist," demanded presenter Ed Chamberlain of the afternoon. The assumption that Spurs would bury Sunderland was universally made and took the panel to St James' Park where, according to said assumption, Arsenal needed a win to guarantee fourth.
The goals were going in elsewhere. There was a couple at Stamford Bridge, which had the potential to draw Arsenal into a third-place play-off if Everton held Chelsea at 1-1. But nothing much to report from the featured matches.
Apart from an early Papiss Cissé effort that cleared the bar, the most telling talking point in the opening 20 minutes at Newcastle was the delicate knock taken by Jonas Gutierrez.
"We can see where that hurt," remarked Alan Smith. "He'll need a cold sponge on that." The camera cut immediately to his manager, Alan Pardew, urgently removing the top from his bottle of water, allowing the inference that relief might be at hand. Alas for Gutierrez, Pardew put the bottle to his lips while his player writhed on. It was a full 35 minutes before the cameras panned to the stands to monitor fans with devices strapped to their ears awaiting news from White Hart Lane.
Time for the red button to see for ourselves. Spurs, we were informed by Niall Quinn, were denied "a nailed-on penalty" when Gareth Bale was decked in the box. The cliche was bang on, but Bale didn't get it, a decision that caused more rolling around than Gutierrez managed, and a booking to boot. Ouch.
It would be "a massive 45 minutes for the north London giants," said the commentator at Spurs, Rob Hawthorne. Oh good, because the only games without a goal involved giants from north London. Seven minutes into the second half the fateful bulletin from St James' Park informs of a goal by Laurent Koscielny to put Arsenal into the lead and fingernails at White Hart Lane at the mercy of febrile teeth.
A cruel rumour spreads that Newcastle have scored, immediately scotched by the commentary team. On the pitch Spurs continue to pepper the Sunderland goal. A post is hit, a Michael Dawson header saved, a Tom Huddlestone shot cleared off the line, Bale has a crack, Kyle Walker lets fly. Still nothing. On comes Jermain Defoe, "Correct throw of the dice," says Quinn dipping once more into his rich jar of cliches.
Sunderland's David Vaughan heads the other way courtesy of a red card for an enthusiastic challenge on Aaron Lennon. Down the clock ticked – 80, 85, 89:17 GOAL. Who else but Bale with a finish worthy of settling any match? Four minutes of added time.
News of goals from all over the place filters through, but not from where it matters, not from St James' Park. Cue subdued scenes at White Hart Lane, tumult on the Tyne.
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