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Classic FA Cup finals – Sunderland vs Leeds United, 1973

Martin Cooper April 9, 2020
Photo by Don Morley/Allsport/Getty Images

Anyone who has watched series two of Sunderland ’Til I Die on Netflix can be forgiven for thinking the Black Cats have a Wembley hoodoo as the club manages to lose not one but two games at the home of football.

In fact Sunderland’s Wembley losing streak at the national stadium stretches back seven games and spans 35 years (full list below). However, 47 years ago Sunderland pulled off one of the greatest FA Cup final shocks before or since.

When the team faced mighty Leeds United on 5 May 1973, Don Revie’s side was a major force on the domestic scene. Already cup holders after beating Arsenal the previous year, all 11 players in the starting line-up were internationals.

Sunderland, on the other hand, were spending a third consecutive season in the Second Division and, unsurprisingly, Leeds were massive favourites to lift the cup, with some pundits predicting a rugby score.

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Sunderland had other ideas. Refusing to be intimidated by their opponents’ reputation for tough tackling as well as skill, the red-and-white stripes got stuck in themselves, knocking Leeds out of their stride.

Ian Porterfield gives Sunderland a shock lead. Mandatory Credit: Allsport Hulton/Archive

Porterfield!

Sunderland took a shock lead after 32 minutes (pictured above) when a corner span back to Ian Porterfield, who smashed home from 12 yards. Stunned, Leeds set siege to the Sunderland goal for the rest of the match and it was surely a matter of time before they scored at least one.

However, they found themselves up against one of Wembley’s greatest goalkeeping performances as Jimmy Montgomery made a string of saves to preserve Sunderland’s lead.

The greatest became known as the “double save”. Midway through the second half, Montgomery palmed away a close-range Trevor Cherry header. As the ball fell to Peter Lorimer, ten yards in front of an open goal, Montgomery leapt across to deflect his rocket shot on to the underside of the bar with the ball scrambled clear. Even commentator Brian Moore screamed “goal” as the Leeds players looked on astonished.

After that, you began to feel Sunderland’s name was on the cup and, when the whistle finally blew, manager Bob Stokoe danced across the pitch to embrace Montgomery in a scene immortalised in bronze outside the Stadium of Light. It remains Sunderland’s only major trophy since the Second World War and, if you like a bit of trivia, is the only FA Cup final to feature an orange ball.

Photo by Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Sunderland’s cup(s) of woe

1985 Milk Cup final
Norwich City 1 Sunderland 0

1990 Second Division Play-off final
Swindon Town 1 Sunderland 0

1992 FA Cup final
Liverpool 2 Sunderland 0

1998 First Division Play-Off final
Charlton 4 Sunderland 4 (Charlton won 7-6 on penalties)

2014 Capital One Cup final
Manchester City 3 Sunderland 1

2019 Checkatrade Trophy final
Portsmouth 2 Sunderland 2 (Portsmouth won 5-4 on penalties)

2019 League One Play-off final
Charlton 2 Sunderland 1

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Martin Cooper is a senior editor and writer at The Focus. The man behind the style guide comes from a newspaper and magazine background and has worked in the sports, aeronautical and hospitality industries. While head of production at The Argus he appeared on the Jeremy Vine radio show and worked as a freelancer on the sports desk at The Sunday Times. Martin is also an FA Level 1-qualified coach and took his youth team from division five to division one in two seasons before going out at the top.