Writer: Michael Briggs
Date:Monday May 23 2011
It`s the time of the year every football fan dreads, the end of the season, but for Sunderland fans it was a time of bragging rights and luck as they powered past an already relegated West Ham United 3-0.
Goals coming from the departing Bolo Zenden, Stephane Sessegnon and Christian Riveros with the latter coming in the second half.
It was a fitting way to end the season for Steve Bruce`s and a testament to his resilience with such a depleted side to work with over the last few weeks.
With that it was no doubt a welcome return for Asamoah Gyan and Anton Ferdinand to the starting line-up after initially being ruled out for the season.
However it was a very Sunderland dominated performance which may have fans thinking, 'where was this when we needed it?`
From the off Bruce`s side looked grasp the game by the scruff of the neck but they had to endure a few shaky moments, with Simon Mignolet forced to pull out some quality saves from A Freddie Sears drive and Thomas Hitzlsperger's 30-yard free-kick.
Gyan then began to cause havoc amongst the home defence, when given two clear cut chances to score but instead fired them straight at Robert Green.
In the seventieth minute, Zenden grabbed his second goal in three games when he clipped a looping header over green from Elmohamady`s cross.
The confidence depleted from the Hammers and on pushed Sunderland, before half time Mignolet had to be sharp with a smart save from Hines` snapshot.
In the second half it just got worse for Kevin Keen`s side as he watched Sessegnon dash from the half way line and rifle in an effort from 25-yaards to double the Black Cat`s lead.
More chances would follow for the away side, with Gyan again firing wide and Jack Colbeck had his effort tipped over by Green.
Cue self-deprecating gallows humour from the Hammer fans with conga`s throughout the stadium and then a warm and the biggest cheer of the day going to Scott Parker as he arrived at the hour mark.
But no even his presence could revive his already doomed side, as the last kick of the game Riveros picked up his first goal in English football when he latched on to Jordan Henderson`s cross and lashed the ball into the back of the net after a neat touch.
That performance left Sunderland in tenth place in the final standings on the league, a place where Bruce wanted to at least finish and to add to the bonus above Newcastle who finished 12th, more bragging rights for fans.
All in all it was a solid performance by the Wearsiders, but more so a very average season, yet again a strong start questioning the side`s push for Europe but against the final stages Sunderland always seem to slip up, injuries and untimely suspensions have ruined what could have been a terrific season for Steve Bruce, but after all it`s his job to turn it around, what will the turnout be come 10 week`s time? Sunderland fans will just have to wait and see.
Steve Bruce comments
We got there and I'm delighted for everyone. It's our third best finish in 55 years and that was our aim at the start.
'Let's all enjoy the next week or so but after that it's back to work and the question is - can we improve again? That's what we've got to try and achieve - getting the squad bigger and better.'
'I'm delighted for everyone, especially the travelling fans who came in their thousands despite it being £46 a ticket,' Bruce said.
'Fair play to them. I'm delighted they've seen their team put in an excellent performance and finish the season in 10th.'
Date:Monday May 23 2011
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