An early goal from Adam Johnson combined with Steve N’Zonzi’s second half dismissal saw Sunderland claim their third win in six league games, a run that’s vaulted the Black Cats out of the bottom three for the first time this season. After their 1-0 victory over Stoke City at the Stadium of Light, the team’s first home win in two months, Gus Poyet’s team sit 17th, the team’s fifth win of the season continuing its revival its new boss.
For Stoke, a spirited effort to equalize while reduced to 10 could not overshadow a match where the Potters were largely ineffective. Over the game’s first 30 minutes, Stoke were in danger of being played off the pitch, and while a surge in play around halftime gave the visitors reason for hope, N’Zonzi’s early second half sending off proved too much to overcome.
A dominant start for Sundland paid off in the 16th minute when a shot from Fabio Borini was left in front of goal by Potters goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Unable to do more with a relatively easy shot, Begovic left Johnson an easy finish, with the Black Cats winger taking one touch before tapping the opener in off the inside of the right post.
The score continues a resurgence that’s put Johnson in the discussion for a spot on England’s World Cup squad. What Roy Hodgson has to say about that prospect remains to be heard, but with five goals in his last four appearances, Johnson has become the biggest individual beneficiary of Poyet’s arrival – the hottest winger in the Premier League.
The Black Cats maintained their unfettered control through the half hour mark, though even after Stoke started to muster an attacking threat, the Potters were unable to create their own chances on Vito Mannone. The closest they came to equalizing saw Mannone drop a cross after a collision with teammate John O’Shea, with the Black Cats keeper forced to make a sprawling save when Peter Crouch beat him to the loose ball.
After a brief Stoke surge coming out of the dressing rooms, Sunderland resumed their controlling ways, play that eventually saw Stoke reduced to 10 men. Having picked up a yellow card in the first half, defensive midfielder Steve N’Zonzi was dismissed after bringing down Jozy Altidore. After the Sunderland forward got inside N’Zonzi on a ball played over the Potters defense, the French midfielder elected to take the American down rather than let him go in for a potentially game-sealing goal.
Predictably, 10-man Stoke were no more effective than the 11-man Potters. Within moments of N’Zonzi’s dismissal, Begovic was called on to make a point blank stop on Altidore, with a cross flashed across the face of goal minutes later giving Sunderland another chance to double their lead. Though they remained within striking distance,, Stoke showed little sign of being able to pull back their hosts.
Things changed over the match’s last quarter hour, with Stoke generating a number of half-changes on Mannone. Their closest try came in the 83rd minute when a cross from the right found Ryan Shawcross in the middle of the area. Though the arcing header hit the top of the crossbar, it never had a chance to beat Mannone, who would finish the match with five saves.
The final numbers hint at a close match, with the teams nearly matching each other in shots, shots on goal, and possession. In reality, Sunderland controlled the match throughout the night, and while Stoke made a push to steal a draw late, Begovic’s early error ended up deciding the match.
Sunderland: Vito Mannone, Phil Bardsley (Ondrej Celustka 45′), Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Marcos Alonso, Ki Sung-Yueng, Jack Colback, Sebastian Larsson, Adam Johnson (Craig Gardner 87′), Fabio Borini, Jozy Altidore (Steven Fletcher 67′)
Goals: Johnson (16′)
Stoke City: Asmir Begovic, Geoff Cameron, Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson, Erik Pieters, Peter Odemwingie (John Guidetti 90′), Steve N’Zonzi, Charlie Adam, Oussama Assaidi (Marko Arnautovic 72′), Peter Crouch (Jon Walters 65′)