Sunderland’s Stadium Of Light demons put to rest?
In his first game in charge of the Black Cats, Martin O’Neil achieved what his now unemployed predecessor could only muster up three times this calendar year (seventeen home games ). A home win. With a rejuvenated atmosphere that had been lacking at the club since the early season derby defeat, the visit of Blackburn, a club with a discontent fan base and low moral, simaltaneous to Sunderland‘s a few weeks back, would surely see the Black Cats pick up only their second home victory of the season. Simon Vuckevic’s rebound effort from Chris Samba’s shot on the fifteen minute mark, would only set the Mackems in their usual slumped positions on their seats and head in hands, as even under a new direction of Martin O’Neil, the journey of this ninety minutes at least looked to be as ominous as before. Another similar sight occured just before half time, when Sessegnon’s daisy cutting cross left Richardson one on one with Robinson from about ten yards out and again resulted in Sunderland ruing a glorious chance. Steve Bruce had seen many chances sqaundered this season and he like Martin O’Neil was probably ruing the day that Sunderland sold Asamoha Gyan, and probably more so Darren Bent.
Encouraging however, was the improvement of performance that Sunderland expressed in the second half, a rarity for Sunderland this season, who fell apart in the second half of many games. Blackburn’s deep line did everything but halting Sunderland’s attacks, and the return of Titus Bramble to Sunderland’s back four, certainly did’nt allow Blackburn to dwell in their opponents half for anymore than a moment. Despite Sunderland’s bombardment of Rovers territory, the final ball was timid, which saw the introduction of young winger Aaron Mclean (who was making his first proffessional apperance) but not before a magnificent one handed save from Robinson to deny Kieran Richardson a second volleyed goal in as many games. Mclean caused havoc for Blackburn full back Jason Lowe, and added some much needed energy on the wing for Sunderland, delivering the best cross of the match within his first few touches.
In terms of goalscoring, its been the basics that have eluded Sunderland’s attacking force this season and there was nothing basic about David Vaughan’s wonder striker on eighty five minutes, that sent the Mackem faithful and manager delirious. With a series of ricochets, deflections and scrambles in the Blackburn area, another Sunderland goal seemed imminent. Mauro Formicha’s handball on the edge of the area assembled a perfect oppurtunity for Sebastian Larsson to add to his two other converted free kicks this season. An uninspiring performance from the Swede, but his free kick painted a different picture. Eluding the wall and curling into the bottom corner, Sunderland looked to have sealed their fourth home win of 2011 and sent the new manager wild. Blackburn’s second half got worse in the last minute of injury time. Jason Lowe, applauded by both sets of fans was strecthed off to add another component to the metaphorical weight on Steve Kean’s shoulders. A banner calling for his and the Venky’s heads, could’nt have brightened what has been a light famished season for Rovers.
This result could be pivotal for both O’Neil and Kean. The beginning of an era for Sunderland and O’Neil, but perhaps nearing the end of Kean’s torrid spell at the Blackburn helm. Could Martin O’Neil revert the Stadium Of Light into the fortress it was in the early Keane and Bruce days? The football historians would suggest yes according to the Irishman’s previous records, but if Sunderland have taught us anything this year, it’s not to take anything for granted.