Sunderland eases relegation fears
Paolo Di Canio launched his Tyne-Wear derby career in spectacular style as Sunderland blasted their way past Newcastle 3-0 to ease their relegation fears.
The Black Cats, who arrived on Tyneside without a win in nine Barclays Premier League games, were simply too good for their hosts, who were never able to muster the intensity they needed to deny their neighbors the points.
Stephane Sessegnon blasted the visitors into a first-half lead and stunning strikes by Adam Johnson and substitute David Vaughan after the break ensured there was no way back for Alan Pardew's men, who are now only two points better off than their derby rivals.
The 44-year-old Di Canio dropped to his knees in celebration on the sidelines when Johnson's 74th-minute effort hit the back of the net, and it was the traveling fans among a crowd of 52,355 making all the noise as Sunderland won at St James' Park for the first time since November 2000.
Asked if that was how he had dreamt the first derby encounter of his reign would be, Di Canio said: "Can I tell you something?
"Sometimes, some special things have to remain inside yourself. It's not good to share with others because it's very deep inside yourself,"he said. "But I believe in this thing. Before the kickoff, I saw the face of my Mama smiling. Exactly yesterday, it was one year since she passed away.
"Exactly one year ago, there was the same situation. I was in the dugout the day after she passed away and we won the game -- I was at Swindon -- and today, it has happened again.
"For this, I have to thank not only my Mama, otherwise my Dad -- he is next to her, but today, he is going to be upset. But Dad, Mama was special today, so my dedication goes to her today, to my Mam."
Pardew had due cause to feel aggrieved after what would have been a 61st-minute Papiss Cisse equalizer was ruled out for offside, but Danny Graham might have been awarded two penalties and Yoan Gouffran was perhaps fortunate to escape a red card for a poor first-half challenge on Johnson.
Sunderland made the short trip up the A19 having taken three points in a derby encounter only once in their previous 16 attempts. But it was they who made much of the running on a day when they simply could not afford to lose -- indeed in many ways, they could not afford not to win.
The crippling lack of confidence which had characterized the final days of Martin O'Neill's reign had been swept away by Di Canio's effervescence and with Sessegnon, so gifted, yet so inconsistent, terrorizing the home rearguard, the Black Cats dominated for long periods.