Altidore proves key
Fabio Borini scored a brilliant late goal to give Sunderland a 2-1 win over rivals Newcastle at the Stadium of Light. But while the Italian took the plaudits, Adam Bate felt the performance of Sunderland's strike pairing was key to the Black Cats' first Premier League win.
By Adam Bate - Follow @GhostGoal. Last Updated: 28/10/13 10:46am
Sunderland grabbed their first Premier League win of the season in Gus Poyet's first home game in charge as they scored late to secure a 2-1 victory in the Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light. A fine strike from substitute Fabio Borini gave the Black Cats the much needed points that lift them off the bottom of the table.
Steven Fletcher had given Sunderland an early lead but when Mathieu Debuchy equalised after the interval the game became a scrappy affair until Borini's dramatic intervention. Here we use Opta data to look at how Poyet's selection of Jozy Altidore alongside Fletcher proved critical to the home side's win...
Sunderland v Newcastle starting formations
Poyet made four changes to the team that lost 4-0 at Swansea in his first game in charge. Andrea Dossena and Carlos Cuellar were restored to the back four with Jack Colback included ahead of Craig Gardner in his preferred central midfield role.
Italy international Emanuele Giaccherini was a surprise omission as Sunderland switched to a 4-4-2 formation by including Altidore alongside Fletcher in attack. The only other occasion the duo had started together was in the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in September.
With Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa suspended following his red card against Liverpool last time out, left-back Paul Dummett came into the team alongside Mike Williamson in the heart of the Newcastle defence. That was the only change as Alan Pardew opted to stick with a 4-3-3 formation.
Keiren Westwood had some joy with his long passes down the middle with one leading to a Fletcher chance
Where it was won and lost
There had been lots of speculation following Poyet's appointment regarding his preference for passing football and how he could implement a more attractive style of play at the Stadium of Light. However, his opposition manager was in little doubt about Sunderland's plans for the Wear-Tyne derby. "He's put a team out there that looks like it's going to play quite direct and we need to be aware of that," Pardew told Sky Sports before kick-off.
This was Poyet being pragmatic in playing both to Sunderland's strengths and Newcastle's weakness. Without Yanga-Mbiwa, Fabricio Coloccini and Steven Taylor, Pardew was forced to turn to Dummett in the centre of defence. Asked if he would be using the power of Altidore and Fletcher to target the youngster, Poyet left little to the imagination saying: "Without any doubt."
|Jozy Altidore - Pass recipients|
There was an early indication of the success this tactic could bring when Keiren Westwood launched a long ball in the direction of Fletcher and the striker's knockdown found Sebastian Larsson, who whipped in a cross. It was from another right-wing delivery that Fletcher made the breakthrough. His trademark far-post header from Adam Johnson's short corner, saw him clambering over Dummett to force the ball home.
Williamson would normally take care of the striker who offered the greater aerial threat but that was not an option here. Both Sunderland forwards were up for the physical contest but neither man could be considered immobile either. This presented a problem for Dummett as he rarely won the first ball in the early exchanges. Altidore and Fletcher also linked up well with each other - exchanging passes to allow the latter to force a good save from Tim Krul soon after the opener. The big American's ability to feed Fletcher - finding him seven times - was vital for his team.
Newcastle had more of the ball in the first half after Alan Pardew changed the position of Loic Remy (14)
In contrast, Newcastle could not make the ball stick with Hatem Ben Arfa through the middle and it prompted a change from Pardew before the 20 minute mark as he moved Loic Remy into a central role. "Ben Arfa has been playing as a false No.9 but he's got a bit of company now," said Alan Smith on co-commentary. "Pardew has changed the shape."
With Ben Arfa coming deeper and the threat of Remy's pace forcing Sunderland to defend a little deeper, Newcastle came into the game. Ben Arfa occupied the pockets of space that were opened up and was able to link up with Yohan Cabaye. As Sunderland's energy levels dropped, the visitors gained a foothold. "After they got the goal, they couldn't keep that relentless pressing going," said Niall Quinn at half-time. "They backed off and Newcastle have had a lot of possession."
|Sunderland v Newcastle - Chances created|
|Hatem Ben Arfa||Newcastle||3|
There was another change of shape for Newcastle at the interval with Papiss Cisse replacing Moussa Sissoko and Ben Arfa reverting to the left flank. That side of the pitch proved a useful outlet for the away team as it was Ben Arfa and Italian left-back Davide Santon who created the most opportunities in the match. Indeed, it was the tricky France international who combined with countryman Cabaye to set up the equaliser - albeit in unusual circumstances when his mishit shot found Debuchy at the far post.
Newcastle's equaliser came from the left flank where they focused their attacking
Johnson was culpable for the goal as it was his lackadaisical tracking of Debuchy that allowed the full-back the freedom to score and it was no surprise when Poyet hooked the winger to bring on Borini on the Sunderland left. By that stage, the game had become a particularly scrappy contest. Indeed, the match finished with an overall passing accuracy of just 72 per cent - a record only 'bettered' by the goalless draw between Southampton and West Ham this season.
With this match also drifting towards a draw, Borini changed the course of the contest and perhaps of Sunderland's season too. While the right-footed strike from distance was impressive, it was appropriate that Altidore should be involved in the build-up. His heavy touch was nothing to wax lyrical about but the forward's mere presence was important.
Altidore not only provided Fletcher with a powerful partner to play alongside, he worked hard to drop into midfield and break things up when Newcastle had the ball too. That he provided the pivot for the equally impressive Jack Colback to bounce the ball off for the winner was just reward for his efforts and reward too for Poyet's selection decision. Whether it can take Sunderland to Premier League safety remains to be seen.
The central presence of Jozy Altidore played a part in the winner and was a feature of the game
"It was the first win, which is key - you need to start winning football games - against our biggest rivals, in my first home game, somehow. Sometimes it's not about playing well in these games, it's about winning. I'm sure that, at least for the next few days, the fans are going to be delighted and the players are going to be relieved. Everything is about effort and we put players on the pitch who gave everything. Then there was a moment when we needed to take a risk, go for the game, and what a goal to win the game, what a time to score - everything was spot on."
"I really feel like we've been done by a sucker-punch. The referee had a hand in that goal as well, because the linesman gave us a throw-in and I don't think that's a foul. We just switch off and they have capitalised from that. The free-kick wasn't a free-kick. Cheick is out of position and Yohan misses the cut-off of the pass, and then we're open a little bit. We only made two or three errors in the second half, I think that's the only shot they've had - or the only chance they've had."
"Poyet has had the job a week and you can't do a lot in a week. But they were spirited today and they looked together. I think it looked a fragmented dressing room before Gus got the job. This buys him a bit of time to work with the players. There is so much good will for Sunderland now after beating their rivals. But is it season changing? Let's see."
Sunderland deserved credit for their defensive efforts but the performance of Jozy Altidore caught the eye in attack. "Jozy Altidore was man of the match for me," said Smith. "The way he's worked back into midfield and put his foot in. He's held it up when he's needed to and he laid the ball off for Borini's winner. He's had a good game."
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