SUPPORTERS leaving the Stadium of Light on Saturday could confidently declare they had just witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly of the Premier League in one eventful action-packed afternoon.
The good: a thrilling end-toend, edge of the seat encounter between two sides fully committed and determined to taking all three points; spectacular and wellworked goals and Darren Bent and Andy Reids continued renaissance.
The bad: defending and profligacy that is generally reserved for a Sunday morning between pub football teams; inconsistent refereeing; Kenwyne Jones petulant push and Loric Canas X-rated tackles, one of which was more deserving of a dismissal than that of his team-mate.
Unfortunately the ugly side of football threatened to overshadow the hugely entertaining clash between UEFA Cup aspiring Sunderland and struggling West Ham.
Herita Ilungas disgraceful play-acting, regrettably, provided the main talking point on the stroke of half-time when he over-reacted to a Jones push. It left Black Cats boss Steve Bruce fuming.
Im embarrassed by his actions, and I would be embarrassed if it was one of my players. Id have smacked my kids arses had they done something like that, fumed Bruce, who was linked with Mexican winger Nestor Calderon at the weekend.
He (Jones) pushed him, which is fair enough. But to go down as if hes been poleaxed!
I cant see it and I cant defend him. And I cant defend Kenwyne because it was stupid.
Referees have a difficult job enough without all this carry on, players diving, which is creeping into our game and trying to get people sent off.
But the response of the boy (Ilunga) has been ridiculous, and the West Ham medical team rushing on with an ice pack to treat a non-existent eye injury, well it left a lot to be desired.
When the physio pulled the ice swab away, I expected to see a large gash. There wasnt even a bump or a bruise.
We want to see the spectacle we have seen and we must make sure we preserve that because that is why everyone wants to see the Premier League. People are not interested in Spain or France or anywhere in Europe. They want to see the blood and guts and thunder of the Premier League.
All our coaches and managers have got to try and do our best (to eradicate play acting).
But the player has to find something within himself.
And when he sees it on video I hope he feels good about himself because I cant see it.
Ilungas shameful histrionics could not tarnish what was otherwise an absolute cracker of a contest which neither side really deserved to lose.
The talented and influential Jack Collison was pulling the strings in the first half. And when the Hammers midfielder set up both Guillermo Franco and Carlton Cole to score Sunderland looked dead and buried.
But in a stirring fightback no-one was more influential than Reid, who superbly curled a free-kick over the wall to pull a goal back, before Kieran Richardson prodded home an equaliser after 76 minutes.
The Irishmans left foot is so cultured it could paint the Mona Lisa while he enjoyed a half-time orange. The Sunderland boss will almost certainly agree.
Its not just his (Reids) ability, its his athleticism too, gushed Bruce.
The ability to run up and down the pitch is what catches your eye. Hes like an old broken down trotting pony at the finish mind, but hes done terrifically well and that is down to him, no-one else.
Jordan Henderson also caught the eye once again.
The youngster looks a real find.
He was industrious and creative, while the Black Cats usual gun slinger Darren Bent was determined, brave and ran himself into the ground, despite not scoring.
The £10m striker was excused for his profligacy by his 48-year-old manager, however.
It wasnt his day but the great thing about any striker is they keep getting up and getting in there.
I thought he was magnificent up front on his own. Half the chances he created himself, and he made our second goal.
Hell be disappointed hes missed a few. Hell be back to scoring goals next week, hopefully.
Given Bents remarkable goalscoring record this term eight goals in 11 you would not bet against the sharp shooter finding the target against his former club Tottenham next week.
It would make better viewing than Ilungas cinema
acting according to Black Cats skipper Cana.
Match facts Goals:
0-1: Franco (31, Collison pulls back and Franco clips home from close range)
0-2: Cole (36, Collison feeds striker in the inside channel and he rounds Gordon to score).
1-2: Reid (39, delightful curling freekick over the wall and into the top corner)
2-2: Richardson (76, taps in on the line from Bents deflected cross)
Bookings: Cana (11, foul), Bent (25, foul), Kovac (37, foul), Turner (40, foul), Illunga (45, foul), Cole (60, foul)
Sending-off: Jones (45, violent conduct), Kovac (86, second yellow card)
Referee: Andre Marriner (Walsall) - Two harsh sending offs and gave an consistent performance throughout 4
8 Gordon: Several superb stops kept Sunderland in the contest.
5 Da Silva: Energetic up and down and unlucky not to score but caught out of position on few occasions 5Turner: Found Cole and Franco a handful
5 Nosworthy: Mixed afternoon. Superb tackle to prevent Cole from scoring Late on but found strikers movement a problem
6 Richardson: Got better as the game progressed.
Malbranque: His tenacity resulted in winning free-kick for Reids goal
6 Cana: Lucky to stop on pitch. Some of his tackles deserved a red card but an inspiration after break
7 Henderson: Looks a real find. Creative and competitive throughout.
8 REID: Superb goal. His left foot is so cultured it could paint a masterpiece
4 Jones: Anonymous until he was sent off
7 Bent: Missed several chances but never hid and brave enough to try again
McCartney (for Malbranque 81) (not used): Fulop, Ferdinand, Bardsley, Healy, Meyler, Murphy
WEST HAM (4-4-2): Green 7; Spector 6, Tomkins 6, Upson 6, Ilunga 5; Behrami 7 (Diamanti 67, 5), Noble 6, COLLISON 8, Kovac 5; Cole 7, Franco 7 (Hines 72). Subs (not used): Gabbidon, Jimenez, Faubert, Kurucz, Stanislav.
MAN OF THE MATCH
ANDY REID West Hams Jack Collison ran the Irishman close, but if Reid maintains these performances hell be nominated for the Premier League player of the year.