Sunderland have been involved and won many classic matches during their 141-year history, from goal-fests to nail-biting victories and the occasional defeat which will live long in the memories of all supporters. Here is a look back at just some of the memorable Sunderland matches from down the years.
Part One begins back in 1935 with a classic against Arsenal and ends with a last-minute winner in the FA Cup quarter-final replay.
Memorable Sunderland Matches
1935 – Sunderland 5-4 Arsenal
Current league leaders Sunderland faced reigning champions Arsenal at Roker Park in what would be an instant classic. Almost 60,000 crammed into the ground to see a titanic struggle between two of England’s best teams.
Described by many as the best game seen so far at Roker Park, it was easy to understand why. The hosts raced into a 4-1 half-time lead, captain Raich Carter scoring twice. At this stage, it looked as though Sunderland would score many more with Arsenal’s defence, all who were internationals, unable to cope. However, the Gunners had different ideas.
Arsenal scored two early second-half goals. The game at this stage looked to go either way with both teams attacking. Sunderland scored their fifth soon after Arsenal’s third but the Gunners were far from done. They scored their fourth in the 75th minute to set up a nervous last 15 minutes for the home fans. However, Sunderland held on to the delight of the home support.
1953 – Sunderland 7-1 Arsenal
Arsenal once again came to Roker Park as the reigning league champions. However, Sunderland, known as the ‘Bank of England’ side, were far from intimidated by the visitors. The hosts took the game to the Gunners with a wave of attacks but it was Arsenal who took the lead. On 38 minutes, Sunderland levelled through Trevor Ford, but even at this point and with half-time approaching, few would have predicted the final score. The home side did score two minutes before the interval, new £26,000 signing Billy Elliot netting on his home debut.
Sunderland were relentless in the second half, filled with confidence having come from behind to lead at the break. The great Len Shackleton and Trevor Ford scored a goal each in the space of two minutes to put the Red and Whites in charge. Another two quickfire goals were followed by Ford’s third to complete his hat-trick and Arsenal’s misery.
1973 – Sunderland 3-1 Manchester City – FA Cup Fifth Round Replay
Voted the greatest game to have been played at Roker Park, this FA Cup replay between second division Sunderland and the cup favourites Manchester City would never be forgotten. A 2-2 draw at Maine Road three days earlier set up this classic under the floodlights.
City included international stars such as Colin Bell, Rodney Marsh and Francis Lee. However, Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe promised fans a night to remember. He was true to his word. Vic Halom gave the home side the lead with a goal similar to Carlos Alberto’s great strike for Brazil in the 1970 World Cup final. Captain Bobby Kerr rolled the ball into the path of Halom on the right-hand side of the box, the forward unleashed an unstoppable shot into the far corner of the goal.
Sunderland were in control and it was of little surprise when they doubled their lead. Billy Hughes picked up a loose ball in the box, evaded the challenges before firing into the goal. Fans were now beginning to dream.
The second half was an end to end affair, with both teams creating chances. City pulled a goal back through Francis Lee and a comeback looked likely as the favourites began to create the better openings. However, Sunderland would not be denied on this great night. Future City star Dennis Tueart had a shot that could only be parried by the City keeper, leaving Hughes a simple tap in for his second of the night and to send his side into the FA Cup quarter-final.
1973 – Leeds United 0-1 Sunderland – FA Cup Final
The FA Cup final that everyone said would only go one way. Sunderland, who had knocked out giants Manchester City and Arsenal en-route to the final, were given no chance. They faced the then mighty Leeds United, the current cup holders and a team regularly battling for honours. One-hundred-thousand crammed into Wembley and experienced not only an upset but one of the greatest saves ever seen.
The game brought three moments that will live forever in not just the memories of Sunderland fans, but fans from around the world. The Red and Whites took the lead to shock all but their own fans in the 31st minute. Ian Porterfield controlled a knockdown from a corner and scored with an unstoppable volley.
The second half was end to end but Leeds were beginning to create the better of the opportunities. Mid-way through the half, United thought they had equalised. Jim Montgomery, however, would come to Sunderland’s rescue. He saved first from Leeds’ Trevor Cherry but the ball fell to the feet of Peter Lorimer who drove the ball fiercely back at goal. Somehow, Mongomery was able to divert the ball up onto the underside of the crossbar.
That would be United’s best chance of an equaliser. They piled forward to little avail and on occasions giving Sunderland the chance to extend their lead. At the final whistle the iconic images of manager Bob Stokoe sprinting across the Wembley pitch to hug goalkeeper Montgomery.
1989 – Newcastle United 0-2 Sunderland – Play-Off Semi-Final Second Leg
A bad-tempered first leg at Roker Park saw Sunderland’s Paul Hardyman sent off late on. The 0-0 final score gave Newcastle United and their fans confidence that the second leg would be a formality. According to the club and the media, the Magpies were overwhelming favourites to go to Wembley for the final. Sunderland had different ideas. The Black Cats, or the Rokerites as they were then known, were away game specialists and rarely beaten on their travels.
Sunderland’s strike partnership, the G-Force, Marco Gabbiadini and Eric Gates scored a goal in each half to condemn United to another season in England’s second tier. Gates scored the first early in the first half that silenced the home crowd. Both teams had chances but late in the game, the Gates and Gabbiadini partnership finished off their hosts. Gates played an exquisite pass that sent Gabbiadini through on goal, the striker shot with precision into the bottom corner to send the away fans behind the goal wild.
This game is also unfortunately remembered for the pitch invasion after the second goal by the United supporters. Their intention was to get the game abandoned and then replayed; however, after a 20-minute delay, the players were informed to take to the pitch to play the remaining moments and finish the game. Sunderland were off to Wembley at the expense of their biggest rivals.
1992 – Sunderland 2-1 Chelsea – FA Cup Quarter-Final Replay
The magic of the cup: goals, tension and the famous Roker Roar were all on display in this FA Cup classic. Sunderland had returned from Stamford Bridge with an unlikely but deserved 1-1 draw in the first game. John Byrne earning his side a replay against top-flight Chelsea.
Striker Peter Davenport had a difficult time on Wearside but, in the FA Cup, alongside John Byrne, he enjoyed his best spell at the club. Sunderland started the game brightly, creating chances and having a goal disallowed. However, on 20 minutes, it was the Byrne-Davenport combination that gave Sunderland the lead. Byrne broke down the right, cut inside, forcing the Chelsea keeper to make a save. The ball then broke to Davenport who had the easy task of scoring. The Blues of Chelsea had half chances but Sunderland held firm to take a half-time lead.
Chelsea were a different team in the second half. Chance after chance was created but in Tony Norman, Sunderland had a goalkeeper in tremendous form. With five minutes remaining, Chelsea got the equaliser they were threatening. A long ball found its way to Denis Wise deep inside the Sunderland box, and the England midfielder gave Chelsea a lifeline.
Sunderland, being roared on by sold-out Roker Park, were not about to give up their dream. A corner was won in front of Chelsea’s travelling fans and it was met by Gordon Armstrong on the edge of the 18-yard box with a bullet header, the ball flying into the corner. Few last gasp goals have brought such noise and celebration than the winner. No one in attendance or watching on television would forget this classic.