The suffering in between has been too great to say it was worth the wait, but 28 years, six months and three weeks after they last did so, Sunderland beat Newcastle United at home yesterday. The victory sparked a pitch invasion on the final whistle, which turned ugly as rival fans clashed at the thinly-segregated away end, and which will get Sunderland into trouble with the authorities, but jubilation will not be denied Wearside. "If you think I'm going to sit here and criticise Sunderland supporters, you're wrong," Roy Keane said afterwards.
Keane was more concerned about the quality of Kieran Richardson's winning strike than the two Sunderland fans who ran on to confront the Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given after it, or those who threw missiles at and abused the substitute Joey Barton as he warmed up. But it is an issue for those above Keane and it soured the afternoon. Keane focused on "a good day for the group and a good day for the club. We got our just rewards after last year, when we felt we didn't."
Joe Kinnear, his opposite number, felt Newcastle did not get theirs. "There wasn't much between the two teams," he said. "But I'm very disappointed, I know what it means to the city and supporters. Immense disappointment."
The defeat, Newcastle's first under Kinnear, leaves them second bottom. Sunderland eased into the top 10. But after winning at Tottenham in August for the first time in 30 years, this was a second hoodoo binned.
Keane said he was aware of the history yesterday as he had been reminded "nine million times" during the week. Back in 1980 the venue was Roker Park, with both clubs going for promotion from the old Second Division. Yesterday they met, apparently headed in different directions: Sunderland, well-organised from boardroom to bootroom, moving up; Newcastle, for sale and with a temporary manager, in the relegation zone looking down.
That disparity, however, did not reveal itself during the 90 minutes. Sunderland dominated the opening 25 minutes and took the lead through Djibril Cissé during it. Steed Malbranque, effective throughout, combined on the right with Pascal Chimbonda and from 18 yards fired in a low cross, perhaps an intended shot. The speed of it in a swirling wind wrong-footed Steven Taylor and Cissé stuck out a leg to divert the ball in.
Newcastle fans shifted uneasily. But then the next 25 belonged to their side. Shola Ameobi, having his best game for five years, scored a deserved equaliser, one minute after a goalmouth scramble required three Sunderland blocks. Ameobi was fouled on the edge of the area. He made his way to the far post, where Geremi found him with a pinpoint free-kick. Ameobi's close-range header gavelittle chance to Marton Fulop, who was in for the injured Craig Gordon.
The next two openings were also Newcastle's. Sunderland were sluggish and Damien Duff could have made it 2-1 on 43 minutes. Nicky Butt robbed Richardson on the halfway line, Obafemi Martins fed Ameobi but he blazed over.
Sunderland breathed again. Two minutes earlier Kenwyne Jones had been called from the bench for his comeback and it was his one-two with El-Hadji Diouf that drew Butt into tripping Diouf. The free-kick was 18 yards out. Richardson had one such cancelled at Fulham last weekend but there could be no erasing the venomous effort that tore past Given here.
After that Cissé rattled the woodwork and Jones headed over. Newcastle could not find another equaliser.
Sunderland left feeling good. But, worryingly, between these twosets of supporters, the feeling is increasingly bad.Reuse content