One the rock, other the scissor. Vito Mannone flapped, clapped, grasped, punched, cleared, and crash-landed. Fabio Borini scored, pumped fists, and celebrated in obvious abstinence. Mannone stood like a big rock behind the parked bus, while Borini’s sharp blades cut Chelsea’s title hopes into pieces. Chelsea’s Italian connotations went up a whole new level today; from the revered glory boys of Vialli, Zola and Di Matteo to the aforementioned two who probably but paid to Chelsea’s title charge for the season, and of course ended Jose Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge streak.
‘Stamford Breached’ was the headlines in the morning papers, but Sunderland’s priceless win showed how the loan system is still very much effective. And it couldn’t have got any better for Liverpool; it was a James Bond-esque mission from Borini to lend a helping hand to his parent employers. Mannone, signed from Arsenal last summer, locked all doors at the back while Borini personified calm to plant his spot-kick past Chelsea’s second-choice Mark Schwarzer.
Sunderland struggled all season with this bunch; who would have imagined them picking a win and a draw up from their visits to ManCity and Chelsea. Faith was restored, and trust vindicated. Borini’s fledgling Liverpool career seemed to be over when he was deemed surplus to requirements in the summer. He has proved himself while clad in Mackem red-and-black, and is more likely to team up with Suarez and co next season than either of Iago Aspas or Victor Moses at Liverpool.
Borini’s no-nonsense, all-action, old-school style of football already has him a cult figure in Wearside. If his Tyne-Wear derby winner wasn’t enough to make him a favorite, then Saturday’s penalty winner that could potentially decide whether Sunderland stay up or not has surely made him one.
Sidetracked by Arsene Wenger’s prudence and his own young age, Vito Mannone was perhaps lucky that compatriot Paolo di Canio relieved him from Arsenal reserves. Now at 26, not too old for goalkeepers, Mannone could be said to be at the proverbial peak. If the blunder against Manchester City that cost Sunderland two points was any lesson, Mannone learnt it well.
He couldn’t do anything with Samuel Eto’o’s goal, but kept the home team at bay for the rest 80-odd minutes. His was a performance of keeping calm and making the right decisions. He repelled shot after shot, and was remarkably unnerved at set-pieces. One of the brighter spots in an otherwise underwhelming season at Sunderland, Mannone will be hard to keep come the season’s close.
It was a historic day at Stamford Bridge, a day when the loss column in Mourinho’s home record finally got ticking. While Jose Mourinho jabbed and jibed with an overpour of sarcasm, Gus Poyet remained calm, even sparing some thoughts about a thankful Brendan Rodgers. Poyet’s was a victory borne from borrowed meat. Even the back-from-loan Connor Wickham has joined in the party, having scored three in two games, and has made light work of the Steven Fletcher injury.
Sunderland seems to have found some light now at the tunnel’s end, thanks in no small part to their loanee Borini and new boy Mannone. They now have three home games against easier opposition, sandwiched between them is a trip to Old Trafford. Four games to go, and Poyet and his team could least afford to waste their hard work of the previous two games. To survive they will need characters, much like Borini and Mannone against Chelsea.