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Fab Borini gives Poyet perfect derby lift for Sunderland
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Newcastle United 1
FOR the second time inside seven months an Italian and his knee-slide went down in Wear-Tyne derby folkore to give Sunderland manager Gus Poyet the perfect start to life at the Stadium of Light.
With memories of Paolo Di Canio's celebrations at St James' Park in April fresh in every fan's mind, this time it was the unexpected figure of compatriot Fabio Borini memorably dropping to his knees during ecstatic scenes on Wearside.
With six minutes remaining Borini, whose only other Premier League goal came in Liverpool's 6-0 victory over the Magpies last season, struck a sensational winner and celebrated in style to leave the whole of Tyneside deflated and feeling defeated.
While Alan Pardew was left bruised by the unwanted honour of becoming the first Newcastle manager to lose back-to-back league games to their North-East rivals since 1966-67, Poyet was left to savour a winning start to his derby days.
From the first whistle until the last Sunderland - claiming only their second home win in 12 against their neighbours - looked desperate and full of intent to win for the first time in the Premier League this season and it had looked as if their chances had been and gone.
Despite earning a fifth minute lead through Steven Fletcher's back post header, Newcastle regained their composure to pull level in the 57th minute when Mathieu Debuchy pounced to grab his first goal since moving from Lille in January.
At that stage Newcastle looked the greater threat, although were reduced to long range efforts as the second half wore on which came to nothing.
With a draw the likely outcome, Sunderland took a quick free-kick – which Newcastle skipper Cheik Tiote claimed should never have been given – and made a late attack with purpose.
Jozy Altidore's lay-off was picked up by Borini and the Sunderland substitute turned match-winner by delivering the sort of finish worthy of winning any derby date.
When referee Lee Probert had blown the final whistle, many of Sunderland's drained players dropped to the floor in relief, while their Tyneside counterparts trudged around in despair.
The challenge facing Poyet, who turned to the main stand to fist-pump before disappearing to congratulate his players in the dressing room, is to make sure this Sunderland win is the first of many that keep the club in the top-flight.
Sunderland's horrendous collapse at Swansea eight days earlier had prompted Poyet to come up with an alternative way of making his team more resilient for the visit of Newcastle - and he delivered.
While defensively Sunderland, still without Wes Brown, improved overall, there could be no disguising the increased threat at the opposite end by an adventurous decision to field his powerhouse strikers together.
In the absence of Fabricio Coloccini, Steven Taylor and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, there was always going to be opportunity to put Newcastle's makeshift central pairing of Paul Dummett and Mike Williamson under threat.
Nobody could have envisaged on Wearside just how quickly the tactic would work. Adam Johnson, tormenting Debuchy throughout the first half, played a short corner to Seb Larsson, got a return pass before clipping an inviting centre underneath the crossbar.
Despite the crowded six-yard box, Fletcher jumped ahead of Dummett to nod Sunderland ahead.
The Scotland international was booked for charging in to the south-east corner to join in the celebrations with the fans, but a yellow card must have seemed worth it.
An early goal was exactly what Sunderland, aiming to avoid a seventh consecutive league defeat, and Poyet required. Having rightly earned just that, the next challenge was to hold on to it.
Newcastle, in playing with the increasingly fashionable false nine, helped them. It was not until the restart when Papiss Cisse was introduced up front.
Before that opportunities were few and far between at either end. The best fell to Sunderland, with Fletcher and Altidore combining well in the final third before the former's low drive forced Tim Krul in to a low save to his right.
It was all about Sunderland's intensity out of possession. Every time a black and white shirt had the ball in their own half, more than one red and white top charged them down.
Setting the tone was Jack Colback. While Lee Cattermole was full of tenacity, Colback was the epitome of Sunderland's hard working ethic.
Yohan Cabaye regularly teased a number of deliveries in to the Sunderland area, where more often that not goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was on hand to gather.
Hatem Ben Arfa did plenty of twisting and turning outside of the Sunderland box, while Tiote's influence on proceedings in the middle helped to bring improved fortunes to a Newcastle team which started slowly.
After Pardew had addressed the situation by replacing the ineffective Sissoko with Cisse for the second half, Newcastle did control second half possession and threatened more.
There could be no arguments with the equaliser. When Ben Arfa found himself in space on the flank, he directed a low shot towards the back post and Debuchy arrived ahead of Johnson to slot in the leveller.
With 33 minutes remaining, Sunderland fans must have feared a collapse reminiscent of Swansea. There were distance drives from Davide Santon and Shola Ameobi which flew wide, but Newcastle struggled to break behind a home defence held together by Carlos Cuellar and John O'Shea.
While that remained the case, Sunderland had a chance of grabbing a winner. Borini, introduced for Johnson, had already seen a shot stopped on the line when it squirmed beneath Krul before his big moment arrived five minutes from time.
Even when Altidore's lovely first time touch from a ball upfield fell invitingly for Borini 22 yards from goal, there was plenty to do.
The former Swansea forward, on a season long loan from Liverpool, teed himself up with neat control before unleashing an unstoppable drive off his right boot which curled away from Krul and inside his left-hand post.
His slide on his knee towards the corner flag sparked wild celebrations and the party scenes continued either side of the final whistle and through the night on the streets of Wearside.
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