Ba own goal halts 10-man Toon
Demba Ba’s own goal four minutes from time handed Sunderland a
fortunate 1-1 draw against 10-man Newcastle in Sunday’s Wear-Tyne
Ba could only look on in horror as John O’Shea’s 85th-minute
header hit him and sailed past helpless keeper Tim Krul.
The Black Cats could scarcely argue it was deserved after
failing to make the most of Cheick Tiote’s 25th-minute dismissal
for a studs-up challenge on Steven Fletcher.
Yohan Cabaye had got the Magpies off to the perfect start with
just three minutes gone and the visitors held on to their lead
relatively comfortably until a final onslaught.
Sunderland, despite seeing plenty of the ball, were rarely able
to trouble Krul as Adam Johnson, James McClean and Stephane
Sessegnon struggled to provide any meaningful service for frontman
But although they emerged with a point, the Black Cats have won
only one home league derby since 1980, and have now tasted victory
home or away against their neighbours on just one occasion in the
Newcastle left perhaps feeling they should have been doing so
with all the points after staging a brave rearguard action in which
returning skipper Fabricio Coloccini was superb, but satisfied to
have come away with something to show for their efforts after
Tiote’s premature departure.
It took less than three minutes for an eagerly-anticipated
encounter to catch fire, although it did so in painful style for
the home fans.
Hatem Ben Arfa found space down the right and played the ball in
to Ba, whose shot from a tight angle was blocked by keeper Simon
Mignolet at his near post.
However, the Belgium international could only turn the ball into
the path of the fast-arriving Cabaye at the edge of the box and his
low drive was true and powerful and flew into the back of the net
to send the travelling fans behind the goal into delirious
Sunderland’s response was immediate and Mike Williamson had to
intervene to prevent Fletcher from reaching Sebastian Larsson’s
teasing right-wing cross four minutes later.
But for all the Black Cats were enjoying the greater share of
possession, they lacked penetration and Krul had to field Larsson’s
17th-minute free-kick, but little else.
O’Shea made an important block to keep out Ba’s volley seconds
later as Newcastle continued to pose the greater threat.
However, the game changed with 25 minutes gone when Newcastle’s
midfield enforcer Tiote was sent back to the dressing room after
careering into Fletcher.
Referee Martin Atkinson had already blown for a foul on the
Ivorian by Jack Colback, but his momentum carried him into the
Scotland international and as the home fans bayed for blood, the
official produced a red card, much to Tiote’s astonishment.
The visitors temporarily re-organised by dropping striker Ba
into a deeper role, but manager Alan Pardew eventually introduced
James Perch in an attempt to plug the gap with derby specialist
Shola Ameobi reluctantly making way.
In the meantime, Johnson had curled a left-foot effort high and
wide, and full-back Craig Gardner had smashed a 35th-minute
free-kick inches wide and seen another effort blocked by
But the Magpies might have increased their lead four minutes
before the break when Coloccini’s shot from a well-worked corner
was blocked and Ba acrobatically hooked the ball over the bar after
controlling the rebound.
Sunderland returned in determined mood and went close within two
minutes of the restart when Fletcher headed across goal from
another Larsson cross.
But Newcastle were refusing to sit back and Mignolet had to
pluck a deflected Ba shot out of the air after Cabaye had found him
25 yards out.
The home side were once again dominating possession, but a
succession of poor final balls let the visitors off the hook with
the locals growing increasingly restless.
Newcastle were defending deep and trying to hit their hosts on
the break, although as the clock ticked towards the hour-mark, the
traffic was largely one-way.
Coloccini deflected McClean’s 64th-minute shot wide seconds
before Martin O’Neill withdrew the ineffectual Sessegnon to send on
former Magpies striker Louis Saha with the temperature rising
inside the stadium.
The pressure was mounting all the time, but with Coloccini and
Williamson in commanding form at the back, Krul continued to enjoy
Newcastle could have increased their lead nine minutes from time
when Cabaye and Ben Arfa staged a lightning break before the latter
fed Ba, whose shot was blocked by O’Shea.
Saha might have levelled seconds later, but fired into the
side-netting from McClean’s flick-on, but redemption was close at
O’Shea met Larsson’s deep free-kick with a header which hit Ba
and flew past Krul into the net to allow the home fans to breathe
McClean and Gardner both went close in a late flurry, but
Newcastle saw out time to return to Tyneside the happier of the two
sides, but wondering what might have been.