Chopra punishes wasteful Boro
Black Cats pounce to capitalise on Downing's missed penalty
Last Updated: 20/09/08 4:27pm
Chopra: At the double
Middlesbrough were made to rue a missed penalty from Stewart Downing as Michael Chopra struck a late brace to hand Sunderland a 2-0 Wear-Tees derby victory at the Stadium of Light.
The North East rivals were both guilty of spawning goalscoring chances throughout the encounter, with goalkeepers Craig Gordon and Ross Turnbull both called into action on a number of occasions.
However, Boro looked to have been handed a golden opportunity to secure their first away victory since December 2007 when Black Cats defender Nyron Nosworthy was adjudged to have clipped the heels of Jeremie Aliadiere.
Downing, who crashed a spot-kick against the woodwork earlier this season against Stoke City, stepped up from 12 yards but was left with his head in his hands after he blazed his effort well over.
And then with nine minutes remaining substitute Chopra latched onto Kieran Richardson's through ball to slot home before he doubled the advantage in injury-time from close range to hand his side their first three points at home this term.
Boro controlled much of the first half as they dictated the pace in the middle of the park through Gary O'Neil and summer signing Didier Digard.
Indeed, it was not until Steed Malbranque started to come inside and pull the strings that the Wearsiders made an impression.
Gareth Southgate's men were even able to survive the loss of striker Mido to a groin injury in the warm-up as record capture Afonso Alves, originally reduced to the rank of substitute, was handed a late start.
They would have taken the lead with 19 minutes gone had Gordon not reacted smartly to Downing's snapshot after Alves' free-kick had been blocked into his path.
The England international had been asked to support the Brazilian in attack with Adam Johnson filling in on the left side of midfield, and the youngster's pace proved a big weapon as the visitors repeatedly hit Sunderland on the counter-attack.
It was he who carved Keane's defence, featuring Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney at the Stadium of Light for the first time, wide-open eight minutes before half-time as Boro launched a raid from the edge of their own penalty area.
Johnson picked out Alves' intelligent run across the Wearside rearguard with the perfect pass, but the striker's first-time shot was well blocked by the advancing Gordon.
For their part, Sunderland started to threaten on a more consistent basis as the half wore on with Malbranque and Djibril Cisse combining well, but the former Liverpool striker's shooting was wayward in the face of some resilient defence.
Robert Huth had to get in a last-ditch challenge on Chopra, a late first-half replacement for the injured Teemu Tainio, as he tried to reach Pascal Chimbonda's near-post cross.
However, Gordon was in action again after 53 minutes when he had to dive low to his left to turn away Alves' drive.
Richardson fired high over two minutes later after Chopra had laid off Malbranque's pull-back with the home side looking far sharper.
They might have taken the lead with 62 minutes gone after Turnbull's inexperience almost cost his side.
Having collected the ball safely, he then dropped it at El-Hadji Diouf's feet as he prepared to launch another attack.
The Senegal international picked out Cisse, but his curling effort was blocked by Emanuel Pogatetz as he and Huth launched themselves into its path.
But Turnbull came to his side's rescue nine minutes later when he dived to his right to claw away Richardson's curling effort with the Black Cats making their big push.
Both managers made double changes as the game entered its final quarter, but it was Southgate on his feet 15 minutes from time when his side were awarded a penalty.
Nosworthy clipped Aliadiere's heels inside the box and referee Howard Webb had little hesitation in pointing to the spot.
But Downing's effort sailed over the bar to set up a tense conclusion.
Just how costly that miss was became evident with 81 minutes gone when Chopra and Richardson exchanged passes on the edge of the box for the striker to run in and slide the ball past Turnbull.
The former Newcastle frontman was booked for his celebration, but his fortunes improved at the death when Malbranque presented him with the simplest of chances to double his tally.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|9||Shots on Target||4|
|8||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
|8||West Ham United||2||3|
|12||West Bromwich Albion||2||2|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||2||0|