Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Sunderland 1
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Sunderland 1 JOHN Major was the guest of honour at Molineux yesterday, and just as the former Prime Minister's beloved Conservative party failed to end the week in a position of power, so Sunderland also completed their own campaign having been unable to make it into number ten. Steve Bruce's hopes of a top-ten finish evaporated on the final day of the season as Adlene Guedioura's 78th-minute strike condemned the Black Cats to defeat after Kevin Doyle's penalty had cancelled out Kenwyne Jones' eighth-minute strike. As a result, Sunderland finished in 13th position, an improvement of three places on 12 months ago, but perhaps not the large scale advance Bruce had anticipated after spending around £25m last summer. Like the Conservatives on Thursday, their upward momentum is unquestionable, but the extent of their progress is perhaps not as substantial as some would have hoped or expected. In fact, yesterday, their fortunes most closely resembled those of the Liberal Democrats during the recent election campaign. They promised much in the early stages, but ultimately ended with less representatives than when they began. For the second time this season, Sunderland ended a game with nine men after both Michael Turner and Jack Colback were dismissed for two yellow cards. Both players paid the penalty for a pair of reckless challenges; both players will be suspended for the opening game of next season. Colback's dismissal was the most notable, as the teenager, who only returned from a loan spell at Ipswich last week, had only been on the field for 17 minutes when he received his marching orders in stoppage time. Turner's is likely to be the more costly, however, as the centre-half, who has been Sunderland's most consistent defender by a distance this season, would have been a certain starter on the opening weekend of next term. He will not be available any longer, after following a clumsy first-half challenge on Matt Jarvis with an equally ill-judged foul on the same player as he threatened to break clear down the left flank with seven minutes left. The double dismissal ensured the season ended on a sour note, but provided a fittingly frantic finale to a match that contained much more excitement than might have been expected from a largely meaningless end-of-season affair. When Wolves visited the Stadium of Light last September, the two sides served up a seven-goal thriller that remains the most entertaining game staged on Wearside this season. Yesterday's encounter wasn't quite in the same bracket, but the opening ten minutes came close. It took little more than 120 seconds for Darren Bent to record the first shot on target Marcus Hahnemann beat away the Sunderland striker's fierce low strike and just five minutes later, the visitors were in the lead. Jones has struggled to emerge from Bent's shadow for the majority of the campaign, but having been restored to the starting line-up after missing out against Manchester United, the Trinidad & Tobago international wasted no time in making an impact. Picking up possession on the edge of the area, he twisted past Christophe Berra before chancing his arm with an 18-yard shot. The ball deflected off the heel of former Sunderland centre-half Jody Craddock and looped over Hahnemann before rolling into the net off the inside of the right-hand post. It was a fortunate outcome, but no more than the visitors deserved for their bright approach. It was not, however, an advantage that lasted long. Less than 60 seconds later, Alan Hutton blotted his copybook with a reckless challenge on Jarvis as the Wolves winger cut into the box. The award of a penalty was one of the easiest decisions referee Lee Mason has had to make all season, and Doyle duly rolled a confident spot-kick past Craig Gordon's left hand. Ten minutes gone, one goal apiece, and there had barely been time to breathe. The rest of the first half was equally frenetic, and although both sides reached the interval without improving their goals tally, their failure was not for the want of trying. A lively Steed Malbranque rattled the woodwork with an acrobatic volley that would have represented one of Sunderland's goals of the season had it been an inch more accurate, while Jordan Henderson scuffed a decent opportunity after more good work from Malbranque on the left. At the other end, Jarvis saw a low, long-range effort saved by Gordon, before Turner's slip enabled Doyle to fashion an instinctive lob that evaded the Sunderland goalkeeper but trickled narrowly past the left-hand post. Sunderland went close within nine minutes of the interval, with Jones heading over at the back post following good work from Kieran Richardson on the wing. That was just about as good as it got for the visitors after the break, though, with their early invention gradually dissipating and their share of possession dwindling as the game wore on. Bizarrely, Bruce's attempts to reshuffle his pack ended in Jones playing at centre-half, with Matt Kilgallon shuffling across to full-back and Richardson pushing forward in midfield. The ploy came close to unravelling when Gordon was forced to produce an excellent fingertip save to keep out Jones' deflection from George Elokobi's long throw, and it came undone completely with 12 minutes left. Guedioura, an Algeria international who could find himself facing England in this summer's World Cup finals, bought himself some space as he turned past Jones on the edge of the area, and his low 18-yard strike gave Gordon no chance. That would have been a bad enough note on which to end things, but worse was to come with the dismissals of Turner and Colback. The latter, in particular, looked crestfallen, but it is worth turning the clock back 12 months to see how difficult things could have been. Back then, Sunderland were surviving on the final day of the season, largely because their North-East neighbours, Newcastle and Middlesbrough, were taking ineptitude to a laughably low level. This time around, safety was secured with a fortnight to spare. Further progress will be expected next season, but for now, that remains an achievement not to be sniffed at. Match facts Goals: 0-1: Jones (8, shot from edge of area deflected off Craddock and looped in off post) 1-1: Doyle (10, rolled penalty into bottom right-hand corner after Hutton fouled Jarvis 2-1: Guedioura (78, turned past Jones and drilled low strike past Gordon) Bookings: Jarvis (22, foul); Turner (41, foul), Colback (85, foul) Sending Offs: Turner (83, second yellow card, foul), Colback (90, second yellow card, foul) Referee: Lee Mason (Bolton) Colback's first booking was questionable, but it was hard to argue against either red card 5 Attendance: 28,971 Entertainment: WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (4-4-2): Hahnemann 6; Zubar 7, Craddock 6, Berra 6, Elokobi 7; Guedioura 7, Henry 6, Jones 6 (Edwards 61, 5), JARVIS 8 (Foley 85); Ebanks-Blake 5, Doyle 6. Subs (not used): Ikeme (gk), Stearman, Mancienne, Milijas, Iwelumo SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): 6 Gordon: Made a good first-half save from Jarvis and couldn't have done anything with the winner 5 Hutton: Produced a rare moment of recklessness to concede a penalty early on 4 Turner: Was walking a tightrope after his first booking, and fell off courtesy of a stupid challenge 5 Kilgallon: Competed gamely at centre-half and slotted in effectively at left-back late on 6 Richardson: Took some stick for being an ex-West Brom player, but performed admirably throughout 5 Campbell: Flickered into life sporadically, but failed to hit the heights he has reached recently 5 Henderson: Didn't look as effective at the heart of midfield and was replaced at half-time 6 Cana: Won a number of important challenges and was an energetic as ever 7 MALBRANQUE: Always Sunderland's most creative midfielder and hit the post with an acrobatic volley 6 Jones: Slightly fortunate with his goal, but showed his worth at both ends of the field 5 Bent: Signed off with one of his most subdued displays of the season, but came close with an early shot Subs: Zenden (for Henderson 46): Slotted in neatly enough without really doing anything to change the game 5 Benjani (for Cana 74) Colback (for Malbranque 77) (not used): Carson (gk), Bardsley, DaSilva, Ferdinand MAN OF THE MATCH MATT Jarvis the Wolves winger troubled Sunderland with his direct running, and drew the fouls that led to Turner's sending off.
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