Writer: Michael Briggs
Date:Monday May 3 2010
Well it could have been a fairytale end to the final home game of the season but alas it was just not to be!
Visitors Manchester United only just managed to sneak past Sunderland with a 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light.
It now means that the title decider will go to the last game of the season with Chelsea no doubt favourites to regain the prize they have failed to win in nearly four years.
Midfielder Nani opened up the scoring account for the Red Devils just after the 30-minute mark.
Dimitar Berbatov could have increased United`s tally but fluffed all three chances, while Michael Carrack had a shot cleared off the line.
But there would be a sour note to the game when David Meyler was carried off the field with what looks to be a cruciate ligament injury.
Sunderland did almost have a shout for goal of the season from the noble Steed Malbranque, but his shot was smartly tipped over the bar in the first half.
It also means that, with Fulham winning, Sunderland`s push for the top ten looks to be in doubt. But non-the less it will be seen through fans as a brilliant but 'what if` season under Steve Bruce.
With it being the last home game of the season for the Black Cats, the party mood started right from the off and lasted the duration of the game, not even the result put a dampener on the festivities.
Right from kick off United seemed to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the home side, trying desperately to score that crucial early goal.
But it would be Sunderland to test the 'best defence in the league` with injury plagued John Mensah heading just over and returning captain Lorik Cana also going close.
Ryan Giggs then had a floating shot clip the top of the bar after 20 minutes before Malbranque`s sizzling shot tested Edwin Van Der Sar, which resulted in 47,000 crying 'Steed.`
Mensah would be then substituted for Matthew Kilgallon after a recurrence of a muscle strain looked to have occurred.
But Giggs, Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher combined to feed Nani and the Portuguese winger curved a rasping finish across goal and into the bottom corner with the outside of his right foot.
Michael Turner almost put the ball in the back of his own net only for the heavily deflected shot to skip wide of the post.
Berbatov then had a glorious chance, when Rooney sprayed a delicious through ball but the Bulgarian bottled his chance and blasted his shot wide.
In the second half the chances were very few a far between, with Sunderland having a decent penalty shout after Phil Bardsley went down in the box.
It would be a day to forget for Berbatov when he had another chance, this time it was Rooney again with a brilliant cross, only for the United`s £30m to sky his volley over the bar.
He then had a goal-bound header deflected onto the bar by stand in left back Kieran Richardson after sixty minutes.
Rooney would then nearly get on the score sheet himself after a quiet game, his fizzing shot going wide of the left hand post.
The reigning champions came under pressure late on but, aided by substitute Rio Ferdinand's return from injury and Owen Hargreaves' first appearance since September 2008, they would not be breached.
At the end the players went round the pitch for the traditional lap of honour and one lucky fan even managed to get onto the pitch.
But it did look grim when Meyler appeared on the pitch in crutches and in some discomfort, if the injury is a cruciate ligament, a nine-month spell out could be on the horizon.
Manager Steve Bruce applauded and thanked the thousands of fans that stayed behind and gave a lot of credit to his old side.
He said, "We huffed and puffed but if I`m honest we lacked that little bit of composure and the final ball, which we`ve been so good at here.
"We missed that final pass or bit of control - the little things which make a difference. It wasn`t our day.
"It was a great finish by Nani but we were disappointed with the goal as he`s had two or three stabs at it.
"We made a game of it but we needed more quality and that`s something we`ve had in our game at home recently.
"The injury to David Meyler was the horrific part of the afternoon. We`ll wait and see on the scans but it doesn`t look good.
"He`s come in and had a terrific impact but it looks like a nasty one.
"I`d also like to thank the fans for their support today and for the reception we received walking around the pitch at the end of the game.
'If that`s the kind of reception we get for finishing tenth it makes me even more determined to push onwards and upwards."
Date:Monday May 3 2010
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