Bolton Wanderers 0
Steve Bruce’s side took advantage of the cancellation of games elsewhere to move within touching distance of the Premier League’s high fliers. Sunderland aren’t, of course, going to win the title but a first ever qualification for Europe achieved through a high league placing remains a possibility.
What seems less likely is match winner Danny Welbeck still being on Wearside next season as he must surely be in Sir Alex Ferguson’s thoughts for next season when his loan in the north-east expires in the summer. The youngster was on hand in the 32nd minute to head home after Jussi Jaaskelainen parried Darren Bent’s powerful close range shot.
It was no more than Sunderland deserved following a bright opening spell in which Bent missed a good chance and Jaaskelainen saved a powerful Asamoah Gyan drive that deflected off Gary Cahill. Soon after the Bolton centre-back was a lucky man when referee Chris Foy preferred yellow rather than red following a rash challenge on Bent.
Ironically if the Bolton had been sent off the crowd would have missed the best save ever seen at the Stadium of Light since it opened in the summer of 1997. Matt Taylor’s corner was headed powerfully back across goal by Cahill and when Zat Knight side footed the ball from just two yards out no-one in the ground could have expected to witness what came next. Appearing from literally nowhere Craig Gordon somehow not only got his arm to the ball but also managed to scoop it from behind his body and over the bar. No wonder he was showered with congratulations from his team-mates, helping his side retain their slender half-time lead with an absolutely brilliant save.
The home side were fortunate early in the second half. Lee Cattermole had been booked for an innocuous challenge in the first period, but this time the ex-Middlesbrough man clearly brought down Johan Elmander for what should have been a second yellow and an early bath. Not so said Foy, whose failure even to award a free kick had the Bolton manager Owen Coyle rightly going mental in his dugout area.
Welbeck might have finished off the game soon after but his shot from a Gyan pullback hit the outside of the post. Then with Bruce preferring to hold on by taking off Gyan, and replacing him with midfielder Bolo Zenden, Bolton piled forward. Paul Robinson and Cahill both had shots blocked in the box, before man of the match Anton Ferdinand did superbly to block substitute Ivan Klasnic’s eight-yard shot.
With Sunderland desperately hanging on Klasnic was then guilty of a poor miss when with just seconds remaining he miscued from less than six yards out. An equaliser though would have been harsh on the home side, which already missing their two central defenders did remarkably well to cope after experienced defender John Mensah limped off with less than twenty minutes of the game gone.