NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew compared his centre back Fabricio Coloccini to the late Bobby Moore yesterday, after his team held onto a one-goal lead at Sunderland for over an hour before succumbing to a late equaliser.
The Magpies went ahead in the third minute through Yohan Cabaye but lost Cheick Tiote to a red card twenty minutes later. An 86th minute Demba Ba own goal further dampened proceedings, but Pardew nonetheless remained positive about his key defender.
“I come from a famous club at West Ham United after being manager there – and that was like watching Bobby Moore,” Pardew said of Coloccini, who had been substituted off with an injury when Sunderland scored.
“It was that good. He was absolutely phenomenal. If you want a defensive example of how to head it, kick it, cover people and have the calmness to play then this was it.”
Unfortunately for Pardew, the Argentine defender – who had missed the previous three games with a hamstring injury – left the pitch in the 79th minute after suffering cramp.
Sunderland, desperate to equalise against their fierce local rivals, subsequently encouraged Sebastian Larsson to pelt balls into the Newcastle box.
And with just five minutes of normal time remaining, Larsson sent in a diagonal free kick which John O’Shea glanced onto the unsuspecting head of Ba, the ball wrong-footing goalkeeper Tim Krul and bouncing into an open net.
The game had started brightly for the visitors. Sunderland’s Danny Rose lost the ball on the left hand side, culminating in Ba squeezing in a shot from a narrow angle. Simon Mignolet saved with his feet, but the ball came out to the advancing Cabaye who superbly drilled the ball into the far corner from 10 yards.
Yet on 26 minutes the visitors’ prospects were dented when Tiote left his studs in while competing with Fletcher for a loose ball.
Tiote appeared to try to withdraw his high foot during the incident, but referee Martin Atkinson still ordered the Ivorian to take an early bath.
Despite the man advantage, Sunderland struggled to find any rhythm, and Coloccini himself went close to doubling the lead on 40 minutes went he drilled a cut-back corner towards goal. The ball ricocheted up to Ba, but he could only fire over.
Sunderland dominated much of the game, enjoying nearly two thirds of possession, but failed to create many clear cut chances.
The Stadium of Light faithful whistled and jeered when Coloccini went to ground late in the second half, suspecting time-wasting. The defender’s injury turned into their salvation, however, with Newcastle unable to hold out for their first away win of the season once their star centre back had been replaced.