Stadium of Light

WATCH: Sunderland fans leave in droves, few charge dugout during poor 1st half

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The home crowd had its fill of misery well before the score line was complete at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland allowed four first-half goals to an Aston Villa side that hadn’t scored more than two in a Premier League match this season, and fans left in droves after the third goal.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Several fans encroached on the Sunderland dugout to give fiery words to the bench and coaches, and had to be restrained by stewards in Northeast England.

Championship Sunday focus: Sunderland

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Story so far…wow. What a roller-coaster of a season for Sunderland. Less than a month ago, Gus Poyet said his side would need a miracle to survive. On Wednesday, playing host to West Brom, the Black Cats made that miracle happen.

Sunderland’s season started miserably, and seemed destined to end the same way. Paolo Di Canio was shown the door after just five league games, only one of which, a 1-1 draw with Southampton, produced a point. When Poyet was appointed, Sunderland were still last, with just a point to their name. The first win came against Newcastle, which always produces bragging rights, but only two more came before January, leaving the Black Cats last in the table.

MORE: Head here for all things Championship Sunday

Cup competition, however, gave suffering Sunderland fans some comfort. In addition to their commendable FA Cup performance in which Sunderland made it to the quarterfinals, the Black Cats made it to Wembley, taking on, and eventually losing to, Manchester City after knocking out Chelsea and Manchester United.

But a Cup run, particularly one without a trophy lifted at the conclusion, is no compensation for slipping out of the Premier League. And when April began with Sunderland losing to Spurs, 5-1, it looked like that was exactly what would happen. They were seven points from safety and expecting a visit from Everton – who won thanks to yet another own goal from Wes Brown.

Then the miracle began. A 2-2 draw at the Etihad. A win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. 4-0 at home to Cardiff, then 1-0 over Manchester United – Sunderland’s first win at Old Trafford since 1968. Everything culminated in a relatively easy victory over West Brom, giving the Black Cats 13 points from their last five matches. But more importantly, giving them another season in the Premier League.

Who do they play and where can I watch it?
Along with over 40,000 Sunderland fans expected to be cheering their side on at the Stadium of Light, you, too, can tune in to see if the season ends on a high note, with a win over Swansea.  Watch the game at 10am ET on Esquire or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra.

Form guide:

April 12 vs Everton, L 0-1
April 16 at Manchester City, D 2-2
April 19 at Chelsea, W 1-2
April 27 vs. Cardiff City, W 4-0
May 3 at Manchester United, W 0-1
May 7 vs. West Bromwich Albion, W 2-0

What’s at stake?
Nothing! Yay for Sunderland! Seriously, those at the Stadium of Light deserve to enjoy this party. This is one roller-coaster everyone thought would end in a final drop of terror. The Black Cats’ rise should be celebrated.

When the final whistle blows…enjoy. Yes, this is getting repetitive. But some Sunderland fans are already questioning the state of the squad, the chaos of the season and whether Poyet is fit to remain in charge. While those questions deserve to be raised, they can wait until Monday, at least. Next week, the questions of how many on-loan players will remain, or what should happen with Jozy Altidore, or how to keep Seb Larsson or Jack Colback – next week, those questions will still be around, and there’s still a free month before the World Cup begins. So enjoy. 

Watch Live: Sunderland vs. Southampton (Lineups and Discuss)

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Sunderland have a chance to climb out of the bottom three, should they take all three points against Southampton at the Stadium of Light today (watch live on NBCSN at 7:45 a.m. ET, or live online via NBC Sports Live Extra).

It’s clear just how deep in the relegation zone Sunderland were, as they’ve lost just one Premier League game of their last six, yet are still even with Crystal Palace at the bottom of the table. Still, it’s been a great couple of weeks for the Black Cats. They’ve advanced in the FA Cup and won the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-finals, beating Manchester United 2-1. Then last week, they went to Fulham and came away 4-1 winners, with Adam Johnson scoring a hat-trick.

Southampton, meanwhile, have had a difficult week. After beating West Brom last weekend, the news came midweek that executive chairman Nicola Cortese had left the club, putting the future of manager Mauricio Pochettino in doubt. But the Argentine has now confirmed he’ll stay on, and Saints have said they’ll not sell any of their players during the January transfer window. Will it be enough to settle the side and allow them to get a result against Sunderland?

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Pochettino has made just one change to the lineup that beat the Baggies last weekend, with Calum Chambers replacing Nathaniel Clyne. Adam Lallana, scorer of the only goal last time out, takes his place alongside Jay Rodriguez and behind Rickie Lambert.

Sunderland have made two changes, one of which is sure to excite many tuning in in the United States: Jozy Altidore steps into the starting XI. The American came off the bench against Fulham to replace Steven Fletcher, but it’s Fletcher that sits this time out. Seb Larsson also returns to the starting lineup, while Jack Colback drops to the subs list.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Bardsley, Alonso, Ki, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole, Larsson, Johnson, Borini, Altidore

Subs: Gardner, Fletcher, Celustka, Pickford, Colback, Giaccherini, Roberge

Southampton: Boruc, Chambers, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Cork, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Lallana, Rodriguez, Lambert

Subs: K. Davis, Clyne, Yoshida, Ramírez, Ward-Prowse, Guly, Hooiveld

Sunderland 0-0 Norwich City: A point, but Black Cats remain last (video)

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Sunderland were buoyed after their midweek win over Chelsea in the League Cup and early on Fabio Borini went clear but could only hit the side-netting when he should have hit the target.

Nowrich pressed for most of the first half but the home side looked dangerous on the counter-attack and pushed forward for an opener.

Jozy Altidore dallied when clean through as the USMNT striker should have hit an effort first time but instead wanted to take a touch and was then dispossessed.

The home fans weren’t happy as the Black Cats looked a little devoid of cutting edge going forward.

Norwich went close through Gary Hooper and Leroy Fer as the interval loomed, with the latter thwarted by Vito Mannone’s great save.

But despite all of that pressure, the first half ended scoreless at the Stadium of Light. As did the second.

With twenty minutes left to play, Sunderland very nearly put themselves in front after a spot of shambolic defending from Norwich, but Wes Brown’s header cracked off the post.

The hosts very nearly capitalized on the Canaries’ defensive lapses ten minutes later, when John Ruddy elected to take a trip over to the corner flag, and found himself tackled. Ki Sung-Yueng took advantage and sent in a shot from about 25 yards out, but the strike went just high.

Perhaps the most exciting moments of the match occurred during injury time, as the referee waved away a penalty appeal from the hosts, who were claiming handball from Sebastien Bassong. Moments later, Brown was shown a straight red for a reckless challenge on Ricky van Wolfswinkel.

LINEUPS

Sunderland: Mannone, Celustka, Bardsley, Ki, O’Shea, Brown, Giaccherini (Johnson 63), Cattermole, Altidore (Fletcher 68), Larsson (Roberge 90), Borini

Norwich: Ruddy, Whittaker, Olsson, Fer, Turner, Bassong Nguena, Snodgrass, Johnson, Elmander (van Wolfswinkle 77), Hooper, Redmond

Match of the Day Analysis: Looking back at Sunderland-Man United, Fulham-Stoke, Man City-Everton

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NBC’s Match of the Day panel had some lingering questions to address on Saturday, with the day’s results providing new context to debates surrounding Manchester United, Joe Hart, and Martin Jol. When Robbies Earle and Mustoe joined Rebecca Lowe to break down the day’s action, they also addressed the new light shined on some of the Premier League’s persisting puzzles.

First up is Sunderland and Manchester United, with Earle and Mustoe reflecting on the game of two halves at the Stadium of Light. The first half was Sunderland’s, but only able to take on goal from their efforts, the hosts left the door open for Manchester United, who saw 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj step through it. That the Red Devils needed the young attacker’s double, however, casts some doubt on the quality David Moyes saw in his team’s performance.

Next up is Everton’s visit to Manchester City, where the Citizens sent the Toffees home with their first loss of the season. Coming off his mid-week display against Bayern Munich, Joe Hart was bound to be the center of attention, but as both Mustoe and Earle agree, he couldn’t be faulted on Romelu Lukaku’s opener:

Like Hart, Fulham coach Martin Jol alleviated some pressure on himself this weekend. Ahead of his team’s Saturday match with Stoke, the Cottagers boss was thought to be leading the post-Di Canio sack race. With his team’s win over the visiting Potters, has Jol saved his job? Earle and Mustoe think so. For now.