Premier League - Sunderland crush Blackburn

Sat, 01 Jan 17:02:00 2011

Sunderland provided the perfect response to their midweek home defeat by cruising to a comfortable 3-0 Premier League win against Blackburn at the Stadium of Light.

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Goals from Danny Welbeck and Darren Bent gave the hosts a comfortable lead inside 20 minutes, and a sluggish Blackburn side never looked like recovering. Late replacement Asamoah Gyan made it three.

Steve Bruce was left utterly bewildered by Sunderland's 2-0 defeat against the season's surprise package Blackpool on Tuesday after witnessing his side spurn a host of gilt-edged chances.

Any fears of a repeat on New Year's Day were soon put to bed, however, as Welbeck scored the fortuitous opening goal with just 11 minutes played.

A limp Ryan Nelsen clearance fell invitingly to Welbeck on the edge of the area, who took the ball down with his chest before firing a vicious, left-foot shot goalwards.

The ball cannoned off the heel of the onrushing Nelsen, and slipped agonisingly inside Mark Bunn's right-hand post - with the keeper already committed to his left.

The sense of relief around the stadium was tangible, and the Black Cats fans were given an even bigger treat a mere 10 minutes later when Bent's pin-point header doubled the lead.

Ahmed Elmohamady swung a stunning curling delivery from the right wing straight on to the head of the advancing Bent, whose perfectly-placed glancing header crept past Bunn's outstretched right hand - Bent's first goal in six games.

Blackburn rarely threatened in the first half, losing possession far too cheaply in the midfield and struggling to find a way through Titus Bramble and Anton Ferdinand at the heart of the Sunderland defence.

The visitors should, however, have reduced the deficit in the 33rd-minute - but El-Hadji Diouf failed to find the target with a close-range volley from a teasing Morten Gamst Pedersen delivery to the far post.

Bruce would have been delighted with his team's first-half performance, particularly after his midweek declaration that Bent would return to goalscoring form.

However, his side emerged from the changing room lacking urgency, allowing Blackburn to finally exert some pressure in the final third.

Mame Diouf came close to clawing a goal back in the 54th-minute - sending a towering header a yard wide after El-Hadji Diouf's deep cross - and David Dunn hammered a vicious shot over the bar a minute later.

Bent should have doubled his own tally in the 61st minute, but somehow contrived to miss the target from three yards - clipping Kieran Richardson's low ball into the box wide of the near post with the goal at his mercy.

Sunderland's home-grown midfielder Jordan Henderson then came even closer to scoring a third goal when, with 12 minutes remaining, he chipped an exquisite shot on to the top of the scrambling Bunn's crossbar.

Bruce's final throw of the dice was to introduce Gyan for Bent - who took a finger in the eye in an innocuous challenge by Nelsen - and the change immediately paid dividends as the Ghanaian summer signing scored the pick of the goals in the final minute of normal time.

The striker capped a flowing Sunderland counter-attack with a perfectly-placed, curling shot inside Bunn's left hand post, securing a morale-boosting start to 2011 for Steve Bruce's men.

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