Home » EPL, Latest » Match Report: Sunderland 1 Bolton 0

They all know about the importance of goalkeeping heroics at the Stadium of Light thanks to Jimmy Montgomery’s FA Cup final exploits and so they will recognise that Craig Gordon’s endeavours bode well for Sunderland’s challenge for European football because they were so reminiscent of those of his illustrious predecessor.

Montgomery secured himself place in football folklore thanks to his breathtaking performance when he flung himself around Wembley to defy mighty Leeds in 1973 with a double save to thwart Peter Lorimer and Trevor Cherry that catapulted the Wearside club into Europe and there was a distinct feeling of déjà vu on this occasion.

Auspiciously for Sunderland, Gordon revived memories of the most glorious day in Sunderland’s history when an incredible point-blank save to keep Bolton at bay and while the stage might not have the grandeur of an FA Cup, it could ultimately prove to be crucial to hopes of bringing the Europa League to the North-East.

The statistics will show Danny Welbeck’s fifth goal in six games enabled Sunderland to leapfrog Bolton Wanderers and go level on points with fifth-placed Tottenham but it was Gordon who would have had the fans and manager Steve Bruce happily drawing parallels with Montgomery and his momentous efforts.

They were 32 minutes into an attritional affair when Welbeck, on loan from Manchester United, stooped to put Sunderland ahead by nodding in from close-range after Jussi Jaaskelainen had parried Darren Bent’s shot.

His goal suggested that if Sunderland do make it into Europe will be back at Old Trafford unless United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has a change of heart.

“Danny is an exciting prospect and I know Sir Alex has got a big birthday coming up and hopefully he will get drunk and let us keep him but we have still got him for another half-a-year,” Bruce quipped.

Welbeck’s goal stirred Bolton and Owen Coyle’s side seemed certain to equalise when Zat Knight stuck out a foot when Gary Cahill nodded the ball into the goalmouth but even though he made a decent connection, Gordon stretched out a hand and somehow managed to push the ball over his crossbar. Stupendous.

The ground seemed to gasp in awe, team-mates rushed to congratulate him and Coyle, who defied the cold snap by wearing shorts, was left holding his head in his hands on the touchline.

That said it all. So much for that one about the Scot’s goalkeeping compatriots.

Indeed, the fans who once sarcastically applauded the £9-million British record goalkeeper paid homage to the Scottish international by singing his name before Bruce paid tribute.

“I’ve just seen it on telly; does Jimmy Montgomery come to mind? It was a terrific save,” Bruce said. “It will take some beating as save of the season. I just hope that he can stay injury-free.”

So much for the cold snap, Bruce can feel was the warm glow of European football which is now starting to loom large on Wearside with Sunderland now sixth at Christmas for the first time in Premier League history and the club’s challenge for a place in the Europa League is now hotting up following their ninth clean sheet in the league this term.

“It would be fantastic to see this club playing in Europe but we must dampen down expectations because they will go through the roof,” said Bruce.

“We have to keep our feet on the floor. Around the corner there will be a tough time. I just want to make us an established Premier League team and we’re generating momentum very nicely.”

Coyle, who saw substitute Ivan Klasnic spurn a couple of excellent late chances to rescue a point, said: “I’m disappointed in the result, but not the performance. We certainly didn’t deserve to lose.

“For last 20-25 minutes it was like the Alamo. Sunderland were on the back foot and we had numerous chances. I feel aggrieved.”

Coyle also felt hard done by as Sunderland skipper Lee Cattermole, who will miss the Boxing Day trip to Manchester United due to suspension, was not handed a second yellow card just after half-time by Chris Foy for fouling Johan Elmander, an incident that sparked a touchline contretemps between the managers.

“He was nowhere near the ball. Steve felt he got the ball, so I said it was a difference of opinion because he got nothing of it. The ref has a difficult job, but it was clear foul,” Coyle said.

“We should have got something from the game. A draw would have been a fair result, but in this league the margins are minimal and we’ve come on the wrong side of them.”

“It was fitting, though, that Bruce had the last word. “It was handbags at dawn but I still think I could handle him.”

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