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March 30, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/30/2012

I don’t really want to dwell on the Everton FA Cup quarter final on Tuesday night. Everton arrived late for the game, and were more up for it than we were. They started the match a storm, and outplayed us, dominating in most areas. While we were 1-0 down there was still a chance of scoring against the run of play, but after the rush of blood to the head that Vaughan experienced in front of our goal when the ball was about to roll harmlessly wide, gifting the Toffees a second goal, there was no way back.

Not that we would not have deserved one anyway. Everton are a fine footballing side, and one can see why we have struggled against them in recent years – what is it now, 15 games since our last win? It shows what a creditable performance we put in at Goodison a couple of weeks back to earn this replay. The semi-final against Liverpool will be a good game for the neutrals.

March 27, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/27/2012

I have a sneaking feeling that Niklas Bendtner, our Danish masked raider who has scored 3 in 4 games, will play a key role alongside Sessegnon in tomorrow’s game, which is the biggest match for many years: the FA Cup quarter-final replay against Everton at the Stadium of Light. The City has been caught up in FA Cup fever, and there is an expectation of a sell-out tomorrow, with captain Lee Cattermole returning to the line-up.

I have no doubt that Martin O’Neill will have a well-worked out game plan, and we will compete, being on a great run at the SSOL, having completed an excellent demolition of QPR on Saturday. Sunderland and Everton are two evenly-matched sides, who have played out two 1-1 draws so far this season.

Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/27/2012

OK, I admit it...I got my prediction of the score wrong, I suggested 2-1 to Sunderland and in the end it was 3-1. Overall, though, this was an encouraging performance from the Lads, who got back on track after caving in anaemically at Ewood Park, showing real dominance and good concentration going forward in this game. QPR contributed to their own downfall but our goals were good, and we played with conviction and no little skill.

There were changes from the Blackburn game, and we lined up with 22 Mignolet, 03 Bridge (Meyler - 70'), 04 Turner, 16 O'Shea (Campbell - 27'), 25 Kyrgiakos, 08 Gardner, 14 Colback, 15 Vaughan, 23 McClean, 28 Sessegnon, 52 Bendtner (Elmohamady - 82').

QPR featured 01 Kenny, 18 Young, 34 Taiwo, 35 Ferdinand, 42 Onuoha, 02 Diakite (Buzsaky - 52'), 04 Derry, 07 Taarabt (Wright-Phillips - 60'), 12 Mackie, 23 Cisse, 52 Zamora (Bothroyd - 82').

March 24, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/24/2012

This game against Rangers is hard to call. QPR have been playing like a bunch of misfits recently, and even did so for 77 minutes of Wednesday evening. But finding themselves 2-0 down at home to Liverpool they threw caution to the wind and managed an amazing comeback for a 3-2 win, with no little skill.

Sessegnon is now available again and will doubtless return for the home side. The Black Cats have taken 16 points from a possible 21 under O'Neill at the Stadium of Light - only dropping points in the draw with Everton and defeat against Arsenal, who we beat the following week in the FA Cup.

Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/24/2012

Sunderland made a few changes from Saturday’s excellent draw at Everton, leaving out O’Shea for debutant Kyrgiakos and bringing in Gardner for Colback, in the following line-up: 22 Mignolet, 02 Bardsley, 03 Bridge (Colback - 77'), 04 Turner, 25 Kyrgiakos, 07 Larsson, 08 Gardner, 15 Vaughan, 23 McClean, 09 Campbell (Ji Dong-Won - 72'), 52 Bendtner.

It is interesting to compare notes on the team with which Martin O’Neill won his first game for the Cats against Blackburn in December 2011, and I am sure that I was not the only person looking for distractions in what proved to be a dire first half. Anyway, the line-up on December 11 at the SSOL was 20 Westwood, 02 Bardsley, 05 Brown, 11 Richardson, 16 O'Shea, 19 Bramble, 07 Larsson, 14 Colback, 15 Vaughan, 28 Sessegnon, 10 Wickham, so only 3 players survived from that day, Bardsley, Larsson and Vaughan. Had not really thought the turnover in the team had been that great.

Blackburn fielded 01 Robinson, 03 Mn Olsson, 16 Dann, 31 Hanley, 10 Formica (Orr – 79’), 12 Pedersen, 15 Nzonzi, 21 Ms Olsson, 35 Lowe, 23 Hoilett, 24 Yakubu.

March 17, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/17/2012

Why is the FA Cup so special? It is of course the original and definitive cup competition, the oldest in the world. But teams can win the League Cup, and it is forgotten about the next season, if not the next day...I did not see Liverpool exactly buoyed by their win over Cardiff. There is a romance about days like this, going to a proper Northern football ground to scrap it out in a knock-out game.

On this very Saturday in 1973, as a mere kid, I took my usual cycle ride to Roker Park, and I joined a capacity 53,150 others for what ended up as a fairly routine 2-0 win F.A. Cup quarter final win over Luton Town, in a competition we eventually won by not just beating the then great Leeds Utd, but at times in the Final actually toying with them by playing keep-ball. I say that day was a routine win, but we were in a way watching history in the making, winning through even though Luton town had done the double over us in the league; we had put out Manchester City in scenes of great drama in the previous round.

That great final of 1973 obviously has become the stuff of Sunderland folklore. The team against the Hatters on March 17th, 39 years ago was the same as the F.A. Cup winning XI: Jim Montgomery, Dick Malone, Ron Guthrie, Mick Horswill, Dave Watson, Richie Pitt, Bobby Kerr, Billy Hughes, Vic Halom, Ian Porterfield and Denis Tueart. I remember how many people smoked at the game, crowds standing, and the smell of Bovril and pies which somehow all added to the atmosphere.

Martin O’Neill knows all about what happened in 1973 and wants the chance to make it happen again - he could do worse than show the DVD to the current Lads. He selected an unchanged team to face the task of getting something from the game and guiding Sunderland to the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since Mick McCarthy took us there as a Championship team in 2004. We lined up with 22 Mignolet, 02 Bardsley, 03 Bridge, 04 Turner, 16 O'Shea, 07 Larsson, 08 Gardner, 14 Colback, 23 McClean, 09 Campbell (Vaughan, 73'), 52 Bendtner.

Everton have won 7 of the previous 11 F.A. Cup meetings between the sides, and David Moyes stirred up some controversy by putting out a much-changed team that ultimately surrendered tamely at Anfield, an act that at least indicated his focus for this part of the season. Aside from Jagielka being dropped to the bench there were no surprises in the home team: 24 Howard, 03 Baines, 05 Heitinga, 15 Distin, 18 Neville, 23 Coleman (Gueye - 72'), 10 Drenthe (Stracqualursi - 85'), 17 Cahill, 21 Osman, 25 Fellaini, 07 Jelavic.

Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/17/2012

Tomorrow’s game brings a raised level of excitement to all Sunderland fans, especially those who remember previous Cup runs, including the most memorable one of 1973 which ended in an amazing victory against the odds. I was young at the time, but that was an incredibly special time.

I also recall a terrific win against Everton in the Premiership;s 1996-7 season, when the young Michael Bridges came on for Craig Russell when the game was pretty even at 1-1. He scored twice late on to send the travelling fans home with an excellent 3-1 win. Peter Reid gave Bridges a new contract the following week, but although the talented striker failed to realise his potential in an injury-affected career, he definitely made an impression that day.

March 13, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/13/2012

We have been credited once or twice this season with "gritty" wins in "difficult circumstances". Do we wish to have our team described with epithets like "committed", "hard to beat" or "determined" when playing the beautiful game? We are not Stoke City, but terms like this have been used recently in reports of Sunderland games, especially when we play the top teams.

In the last few months we have beaten Man City 1-0, Arsenal 2-0, and on Saturday we kept a clean sheet and brought home the bacon against highly-rated Liverpool. I would rather see us compete in games, show skill, and win rather than just roll over and die like we did a bit too often in much of 2011. Football is definitely the beautiful game, but it is somehow more beautiful when you win, even in what can be called "combative" fashion. Even the BBC suggested that "Liverpool's faltering league form continued as they were beaten by a determined and dogged Sunderland side".

Sunderland fielded 22 Mignolet, 02 Bardsley, 03 Bridge, 04 Turner, 16 O'Shea, 07 Larsson, 08 Gardner, 14 Colback, 23 McClean, 09 Campbell (Vaughan - 75'), 52 Bendtner (Wickham - 83'), and although we did not need any excuses on the day, we were obviously without the creative drive of Sessegnon, the craft of Cattermole, and Titus Bramble.

Liverpool came up to the true north of the country with 25 Reina, 03 Jose Enrique, 16 Coates, 34 Kelly, 37 Skrtel, 14 Henderson (Downing - 79'), 20 Spearing, 26 Adam (Carroll - 69'), 07 Suarez, 18 Kuyt, 39 Bellamy (Gerrard - 69').

March 10, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/10/2012

As a result of last weekend’s efforts against Ne****tle, we have 2 of our major stars missing. Sessegnon and Cattermole got stuck in last weekend, and obviously suffered for it – but the fans surely appreciated their commitment - we have not seen that side of Sess before. I am against violence on the pitch, and both of them will miss the FA Cup quarter-final trip to Everton, but of more immediate concern is the important league game against Liverpool tomorrow.

March 9, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/09/2012

In the end this was a passionate, memorable but inconclusive 1-1 draw, in which Sunderland led for most of the game in what was a hugely intense and entertaining Wear-Tyne derby clash.

And for once the use of the word 'clash' is accurate - players did not hold back and there we 5 bookings for the home team, plus 3 bookings for the Black Cats, who also suffered a red card for Sessegnon's elbow. Sunderland’s line-up was as follows: 22 Mignolet, 02 Bardsley, 04 Turner, 11 Richardson (Bridge - 85'), 16 O'Shea, 06 Cattermole, 07 Larsson (Colback - 73'), 08 Gardner, 23 McClean, 28 Sessegnon, 52 Bendtner (Campbell - 71')

The barcodes were represented by 26 Krul, 02 Coloccini, 03 Santon (Ben Arfa - 46'), 05 Simpson, 06 Williamson, 16 R Taylor (Lovenkrands - 88'), 04 Cabaye, 18 Gutierrez, 24 Tiote, 09 Cisse (Ameobi - 72'), 19 Ba.

March 3, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/03/2012

Who cares about the Manchester derby, Spurs vs. Arsenal or whatever, this is a huge game, and the North East media have been finding new angles for this clash.

Obviously the Black Cats want to win, badly, and it is the biggest away game of the season, but we are on a bad run in Tyne-Wear derbies, with only 1 win in the last 14, courtesy of Richardson’s free kick a couple of years ago at the SSOL. The supporters' memories are long and we will never forget those two 2-1 wins at St. James’ under Peter Reid in 1999 and 2000, but Sunderland lost this season's first encounter against Newcastle by a single goal at the Stadium of Light back in August.

March 2, 2012
Posted by Lars Knutsen on 03/02/2012

This was a collective off-day by the Sunderland team, in a match that West Bromwich Albion were clearly up for. To be honest, I would rather forget the day and not write about it, so please do not look for any enthusiasm in this coverage. That is not taking anything away from the home team, who did the simple things well, and scored at crucial times in this game, and as I predicted in my preview the on-form Odemwingie was a constant threat.

The Black Cats lined up as follows: 22 Mignolet, 02 Bardsley, 04 Turner, 11 Richardson (Bendtner - 46'), 16 O'Shea, 06 Cattermole, 07 Larsson (Bridge - 59'), 08 Gardner, 14 Colback, (Campbell - 46'), 23 McClean, 28 Sessegnon – a decent enough team on paper.
The home team featured 01 Foster, 03 Olsson, 06 Ridgewell, 23 McAuley, 07 Morrison, 08 Andrews, 12 Reid, 14 Thomas (Dorrans - 64'), 21 Mulumbu (Shorey - 77'), 24 Odemwingie (Long - 81'), 32 Fortune.

Lars Knutsen Lars Knutsen was born in Sunderland of Norwegian parents across the Wear from the SSOL back when shipbuilding not car manufacture was the city’s main industry. His first game was in 1968 and he has followed the Black Cats since then, with great memories of the 1973 FA Cup. He hopes the “yo-yo” days are over and defines supporting a team by whether the result affects your mood (but maybe not in the way portrayed in the book “Fever Pitch”!) so has been cheerful recently. He endured school in Newc**tle, has a Ph.D. in Chemistry, a Professorship at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, and works in the Pharma industry as a consultant Medicinal Chemist.

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