Sun, Aug 12, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Black Cats shock Tottenham

SUPER SUB Roy Keane gave Michael Chopra his debut in the closing stages and the gamble paid off 13 seconds from the end of injury time when he scored

AFP, SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND

Sunderland's Carlos Edwards, left, battles with Tottenham Hotspur's Didier Zokora during their English Premier League soccer match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland, England, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Michael Chopra handed Roy Keane a winning return to the Premiership as the Sunderland striker's last-gasp goal clinched a 1-0 win against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday.

Chopra's stoppage time winner was vindication for the Sunderland boss, who was criticized for paying ?5 million (US$10 million) for a player who is a fan of Sunderland's deadly rivals Newcastle United.

But anyone who arrived at the Stadium of Light holding a grudge against Chopra will surely have gone home singing his name.

Keane's decision to send on Chopra as a second half substitute changed the game and underlined why the former Manchester United midfield hardman is already an icon on Wearside.

He has rapidly assumed messianic status amongst Sunderland supporters after leading the club from the foot of the Championship to promotion in a matter of months and this win will only add to his growing legend.

The relentless hype that greets the start of each Premiership season creates the illusion that the English league has no equal, but for long periods this was turgid stuff.

Opening day nerves undoubtedly played a part, but great things are expected of both clubs and this was hardly a dynamic start for either in front of a crowd of over 43,000.

Jermaine Jenas prodded an early shot wide for Spurs, but that was as good as it got for the next half an hour.

It was a mistake by Younes Kaboul's defensive partner Anthony Gardner that handed Sunderland their first real chance.

Gardner stooped to head clear a Ross Wallace cross but misjudged the bounce and the ball ran through to Daryl Murphy. The Irish striker had a clear sight of goal, but his heavy touch took him wide and Paul Robinson was able to smother the danger.

Keane made Craig Gordon the most expensive goalkeeper in British soccer history when he paid Hearts ?9 million for the Scotland international.

Such a hefty price tag guarantees Gordon's every move is closely scrutinized and he almost gave the doubters an early chance to question the fee when he rushed off his line and allowed Dimitar Berbatov to chip over him.

Berbatov still had plenty of work to do though and Nyron Nosworthy bailed out Gordon by blocking the Bulgarian's shot.

Sunderland's caution on their return to the top-flight was understandable but their visitors had far fewer excuses for their tepid display.

Jol's big-spending since last season has raised expectations that Spurs will finally break into the top four, but they were content to coast along when the chance to make an early statement was there for the taking.

Admittedly Jol was without his first choice defensive pairing after injuries to Ledley King and Michael Dawson, but it was in attack that Spurs lacked invention.

Sensing the need to shake his team out of their lethargy, Jol sent on Darren Bent, but even the ?16 million striker was unable to make any difference.

Tottenham's lack of penetration ensured Sunderland were always in the game and Keane gave Chopra his debut in the closing stages as he tried to snatch the win.

The gamble paid off 13 seconds from the end of stoppage time. Spurs failed to deal with a deep Wallace cross and Chopra pounced on the loose ball to steer a low shot past Robinson.

Keane raised an arm in muted celebration while the rest of the stadium exploded in delight. It was a dramatic finish that the game hardly deserved, but Keane and company won't care about that.

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