First victory for Sunderland

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:24

First victory for Sunderland

Black Cats’ boss Gus Poyet changed his team around and elected for two strikers with Fletcher brought back into the side, and the gamble paid off.
Connor Wickham gave the home side an early lead after great work from Fletcher down the right, but Charlie Adam brilliantly slid the ball into the Sunderland net to equalise just 10 minutes later.
Fletcher then got himself on the scoresheet for the first time in 2014, steering a header past Asmir Begovic with the marking leaving much to be desired.
The second-half was much more cagey, the home side looking very nervous with just a one-goal lead, however Fletcher’s second 12 minutes from time sealed the hosts’ first win of the season, and a huge sigh of relief was to be heard all around Wearside.
The result sees Sunderland leapfrog Stoke to move up to 11th in the Premier League table, with the Potters slipping to 15th.
The match began at a frantic pace, with both sides willing to get forward in numbers.
And in a fixture has produced just six goals in the previous five meetings between this pair, everyone was surprised to see the deadlock broken so quickly.
Fletcher was at the heart of it, turning quickly from a throw-in, getting a bit of luck in reaching the byline, but there was nothing lucky about the pinpoint cross that picked out Wickham, who arched his back to guide the ball past Asmir Begovic with his head.
Steven N’Zonzi should have at least tested Vito Mannone in the Sunderland goal straight away, but his tame effort was easy for the Italian to smother.
But the Potters didn’t have to wait long for a leveller. A quick free-kick caught the home side napping, Adam nipped in, beat one man before cleverly passing the ball through the legs of Santiago Vergini and past Mannone.
However, Stoke boss Mark Hughes will be unhappy that his side once again fell behind. Sebastian Larsson’s quick corner was taken short, and the Swede picked out Fletcher, who too easily evaded the attentions of Marc Wilson, and guided a header past Mannone for his first goal since his strike against Cardiff last December.
Ryan Shawcross had a great chance to equalise from a corner down the other end, but his header, while powerful, flew onto the roof of the net. Should really have hit the target from close-range.
Just before the interval, Peter Crouch drew a smart save from Mannone, who got down very well to his right to keep out a well-directed header.
The intensity of the match slowed right down after the break, with the home side looking nervous as Stoke pressed for an equaliser.
The Potters got themselves into some excellent positions, but the final ball was lacking when it really counted.
Referee Neil Swarbrick dished out several yellow cards as the tackles started to fly in as both sides grew more frustrated with their poor retention of possession.
But one moment of brilliance from Wickham settled the match, and brought some much needed cheer to Wearside.
Running at the heart of the Stoke defence, Wickham avoided several challenges, stayed on his feet, worked his way into the box and unselfishly squared the ball for substitute Jack Rodwell, who got away with missing his kick completely as Fletcher followed up to seal the points.
Matt Le Tissier’s verdict
“Fletcher scored his first league goal for a year, which is a heck of a drought and what normally happens when you haven’t scored one for a while is the second one comes along soon afterwards. The relief was there for all to see. Although Stoke probably had the majority of possession and possibly even the majority of chances at goal, Sunderland were probably good value for the win.

“I think the injury to Victor Moses threw Stoke a little bit. He was a big difference on Monday night when they beat Newcastle, so for him to go off so early in the game was a big blow for Stoke. They put Bojan on when they were trying to chase the game and again he had no real affect at all. That will be one of the big disappointments so far this season for Mark Hughes.”

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