Defoe gem restores hope on Wearside
SUNDERLAND 1 NEWCASTLE 0
Published 06/04/2015 | 02:30
Sometimes it needs only one touch to restore hope. As Jermain Defoe's beautiful, arcing volley flew past Tim Krul, Sunderland's supporters truly believed again.
Not only did Defoe's goal defeat their ancient rivals; it raised Sunderland to 15th in the Premier League and lifted the spirits of all associated with the club.
This was a weekend of wonder goals, of gems from Charlie Adam and Bobby Zamora, but Defoe's contribution just before the interval, only Sunderland's second goal in eight matches, mattered more.
It was a goal of great significance and elegance. It was truly a goal from the heavens.
When Steven Fletcher headed on Costel Pantilimon's huge clearance, the hawk-like Defoe tracked the ball's trajectory as it fell from the sky 20 yards out.
Defoe planted the toes of his right foot into the ground and pushed himself up to make contact with the ball left-footed, giving Krul no chance.
It echoed Tony Yeboah in his Leeds United pomp. It was a masterpiece of vision, boldness and technique, a sign of the 32-year-old's enduring class.
It was so good that a smiling Krul slowed his journey down the tunnel at the interval to allow Defoe to catch up and congratulated him.
It was a sporting touch from Krul, but it would have been more advisable to have waited until they were out of camera shot; the Dutchman's gesture certainly annoyed some Newcastle fans.
Sunderland supporters were too busy still celebrating and enjoying the six replays of the goal on the big screen at half-time.
Before the last half-time here, on March 14, Sunderland fans were out of their seats protesting as their team trailed 4-0 to Aston Villa.
On the cusp of the break this time, they were out of their seats celebrating, revelling in Defoe's fabulous volley, a magical moment totally out of keeping with a scrappy derby.
They will not care about the overall paucity of quality. They will recall the horror show of that game with Villa, a damaging result that quickly cost Gus Poyet his job.
They reassembled with hope, having heard Dick Advocaat, Poyet's short-term successor, talk of how he has worked on the players' confidence, training them in shorter, more-intense sessions and doing more work with the ball.
Sunderland were well organised and hungrier. Defoe was excellent, keeping the shape and taking his chance well. Lee Cattermole was outstanding, providing steel in the centre. Patrick van Aanholt kept raiding forward.
Advocaat's tactics, adventurous and balanced, paid off. His team-talk inspired the players.
Sunderland's fans were brilliant, giving unconditional support to the team throughout and the deep roar at the final whistle spoke powerfully of pride returning.
Backed passionately from the off, Sunderland went after Newcastle without pause. Advocaat said that his players could hardly talk afterwards because they were so exhausted.
For Newcastle, there can have been little sweat staining their shirts as this was an embarrassing display. The likes of Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko, Remy Cabella and Sammy Ameobi were particularly poor.
Newcastle were disjointed and disappointing, barring a late flurry. For a club once synonymous with having a deep bond between players and supporters, an alarming disconnect could loom.
There is a bad sense of drift about the club, a loss of direction and soul with too many questions over the future of certain players and particularly the head coach John Carver.
After revealing a profit of £19m, Newcastle looked bankrupt where it counted most, on the pitch, being bereft of ideas and energy as they slumped to a fifth derby defeat on the spin.
It took until 12 minutes from time for the visitors to register their first effort on target.
Newcastle need a more enlightened approach from owner Mike Ashley, appreciating that clubs are a sporting venture as well as a business.
They need some new players and a new head coach. Carver is an honest man, whose pain was inescapable as he talked about this loss, but he is not management material. He is a capable coach, a loyal No 2, but no strategist.
It would still be nice to think that the players hurt as much as he does over this setback.
A small plea of mitigation can be made in that Fabricio Coloccini and Papiss Cisse were suspended, but Newcastle still resembled a loose gathering of individuals in contrast to Advocaat's collective in red and white stripes.
Sunderland's hunger shone through. They immediately tore into Newcastle, responding to the wall of noise constructed by their supporters. Advocaat unleashed three attackers, Fletcher flanked by Connor Wickham and Defoe.
Billy Jones had a shot cleared, Defoe wasted a good opportunity, Wickham fired straight at Krul.
With Cattermole returning from suspension (isn't he always?), Sunderland pressed relentlessly. Yet there seemed little likelihood of a goal.
Defoe can rarely have had a starting position so far from where he does his best work, centrally, close to or in the penalty box. He tracked back dutifully, switched flanks with Wickham at the midway point of the first half, but it was when he moved more centrally as the half closed that his true worth was shown.
The noise was deafening. Newcastle's former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback was constantly jeered. He was targeted with a few missiles as well as verbal abuse when walking over to take a throw-in; a kid in a Sunderland top even ran down to the railings to give Colback the benefit of his callow views.
Usual derby rivalry was placed to one side for one minute when Sunderland supporters joined the visitors in saluting the memory of John Alder and Liam Sweeney, the Newcastle fans who lost their lives in the flight MH17 crash.
Barring that moment of unity, the usual frenzy reigned. There was little composure.
The game staggered on after the restart. There were some late nerves for Sunderland when Cabella brought a save from Pantilimon and Ayoze Perez sent an effort over, but it was soon all over bar the Sunderland crowing.
Difficult tests still lie ahead, but one touch, one result, has at least brought hope back to the Stadium of Light. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
3 THINGS WE LEARNED AT STADIUM OF LIGHT
Carver must go
John Carver wants to become Newcastle's head coach on a permanent basis, but surely that cannot happen unless owner Mike Ashley really does enjoy upsetting supporters.
Carver was hardly a popular choice before Newcastle crashed to a fifth successive defeat to their bitter rivals - Alan Pardew's former assistant has been in the dugout for all of them - but this appears to confirm he is part of an old problem rather than a solution to the team's many ills.
Carver has been given a platform to show what he can do and has won just two games out of 13 as Newcastle continue to slide down the table. He's had a go, he tried his best, but Carver has failed his audition.
Let him return to a coaching role and hopefully a proud Geordie will not be demonised by his own people for too long.
Defoe gamble looks good bet
Sunderland knew they were taking a gamble on Jermain Defoe, but it always looked like one worth taking.
At the age of 32, and on the back of a less than spectacular spell in the lucrative retirement home of the MLS, Defoe's best years are behind him, but he is the closest thing you get to guaranteeing goals in football, even in the twilight of his career.
The length and size of his contract - three and a half years on £80,000 a week - raised eyebrows but, if his goals keep Sunderland up, it's a bargain.
Not that he'll score a better one than the dipping volley from 25 yards that nestled in the top corner just before half-time.
Gutierrez a shining example to all
There has not been a more heart-warming sight this season for Newcastle supporters than Jonas Gutierrez returning to the team just a few months after finishing an intense course of chemotherapy to rid his body of cancer.
He is an example to all of us, but he should also be a role model for all foreign imports to the club.
From the moment he arrived from Real Mallorca in 2008, Gutierrez has given everything he has to the team's cause. Even after relegation to the Championship in 2009, he stayed and fought for the club.
There have been better Newcastle players over the last few years, but none have grasped so well what fans want from those who wear the club's crest next to their heart.
Gutierrez has never shirked, hid or demanded a move. If only more Newcastle players were like him.