Newcastle 1 Sunderland 1: Lessons from a feisty Tyne-Wear derby
What did we learn from a tempestuous Tyne-Wear derby which ended in a 1-1 draw between Newcastle United and Sunderland?
The clash of the ‘hard men’
Two of the league’s toughest characters came head-to-head in a fierce Tyne-Wear derby. Sunderland captain Lee Cattermole set the tone for the game after 30 seconds, diving into a full-blooded challenge on Newcastle’s Ivory Coast midfielder Cheik Tiote, and was fortunate to receive just a booking for tackle. Tiote responded with a nasty challenge mid-way through the first half, leaving a mark on his opponent’s ankle. But the Magpies’ imposing midfielder was second best, committing a string of fouls and unsurprisingly entering referee Mike Dean’s book after the interval. On the other hand, Cattermole remained composed, and his experience of the fixture was evident. But despite managing to show remarkable self-control throughout the remaining 89-and-a-half minutes, Cattermole’s emotions spilled over after the final whistle and he was sent off by Dean for protesting.
This tempestuous derby highlighted the renaissance and new-found ambition at both clubs under their respective managers. Newcastle, still outsiders for fourth place, were eager to keep in pace with Arsenal, while Sunderland had a Europa League place in their sights. For the purist, the on-field battle merely added more fuel to an already raging fire at St James’ Park. The over exuberance of Black Cats’ winger James McClean’s saw the Republic of Ireland’s latest recruit catch Danny Simpson in a reckless tackle. It prompted emotions to spill over as players clashed, Alan Pardew and Martin O’Neill exchanged heated words, and the supporters reacted accordingly. A red card was inevitable, and Tiote’s meaty challenge on Stephane Sessegnon prompted a reaction from the forward, who was dismissed for elbowing the provocative Toon midfielder.
Mike Dean’s testing afternoon
The key talking point from the game was referee Mike Dean’s decision to award a 24th-minute spot-kick, penalising Michael Williamson for holding onto Michael Turner in Tim Krul’s area. It was a huge call in a fixture of such magnitude and with the overwhelming St James’ Park support vilifying the decision. Nicklas Bendtner dispatched his spot-kick and it served to temporarily deflate a heated game. Up until the penalty award, Dean had issued six cautions in a stop-start game. The theme continued in the second half, though the 43-year-old official had a relatively peaceful 45 minutes in contrast, booking Fraizer Campbell, Craig Gardner and Tiote, while dismissing Sessegnon for violent conduct. And the official was thrust in the spotlight again, when he awarded Newcastle a penalty after Campbell fouled Shola Ameobi. A testing afternoon for Dean was complete when he sent off Cattermole after the final whistle.
Hatem Ben Arfa deserves starting spot
Hatem Ben Arfa has struggled to tie down a regular place in Pardew’s first-team since returning from a leg break suffered last season. But the French midfielder gave a 45-minute cameo which added renewed impetus into Newcastle’s performance, and resulted in Kieran Richardson’s substitution. The former Manchester United midfielder was unable to cope with Ben-Arfa’s pace and trickery, and Richardson was left humiliated by the winger’s audacious nutmeg which almost unlocked the Black Cats’ defence. His impact merits a chance to impress from the start for Newcastle – and he will play a key role in their push for a European place.
The Tyne-Wear derby specialist
With eight minutes remaining, Simon Mignolet produced an outstanding save to deny Demba Ba a 17th goal of the season, and Sunderland seemed destined to hold onto three points. But Ameobi’s introduction made a difference, winning the penalty and causing the Black Cats’ defence problems after Papiss Cisse’s muted display. The 30-year-old struck in the 91st minute to rescue a point for the home side, and score his seventh goal in this fixture. It ensures Newcastle remain in touch with fourth-placed Arsenal in their hunt for Champions League football next season.