West Brom continue to fly high

West Bromwich’s Albion dream season continued as they moved up

to third in the Premier League following a 4-2 win over Sunderland

at the Stadium of Light.

Zoltan Gera’s brilliant strike, a dreadful blunder by Sunderland

goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, which gifted Shane Long a goal, Romelu

Lukaku’s penalty and Marc-Antoine Fortune’s late finish gave Steve

Clarke’s side the points despite Craig Gardner’s free-kick and

Stephane Sessegnon’s late tap-in having given the home fans

something to cheer.

The win pushed West Brom above Chelsea, who host Manchester City

in Rafa Benitez’s first game in interim charge on Sunday, on to a

total of 26 points from 13 games in what is emerging as an

unexpectedly successful campaign.

In contrast, defeat for Sunderland added to the pressure on

Martin O’Neill, which had only been temporarily lifted with last

weekend’s win at Fulham, and the Black Cats have now still won just

one home game this season to leave them languishing close to the

relegation zone.

The match’s first real talking point came in the 20th minute

when relieved Sunderland defender John O’Shea thought he had been

shown a second yellow for a challenge on Long only to realise his

Republic of Ireland team-mate had been harshly booked for

diving.

Boaz Myhill was then fortunate not to be punished when the West

Brom goalkeeper only palmed a header from Sessegnon, clearly full

of confidence after his spectacular goal at Fulham, back into the

danger zone.

But, in the 30th minute, Sunderland paid the price for their

missed chances as Gera gave West Brom the lead by curling an

excellent, left-footed, 25-yard effort past Mignolet, who could

only brush his fingertips against the ball.

Mignolet and Sunderland’s problems deepened one minute before

half-time when the goalkeeper made an embarrassing hash of dealing

with Chris Brunt’s harmless, over-hit through-ball, allowing Long

to pounce and walk the ball into the open net.

O’Neill, who had lost captain Lee Cattermole to injury in the

first half, made another change at half-time and sent on James

McClean in place of O’Shea, with Phil Bardsley moving to

centre-back and Sebastian Larsson shifting to right-back.

But West Brom continued to look a threat on the counter-attack

and Mignolet had to partly atone for his earlier blunder by saving

a one-on-one with Long when rushing off his line to block the

striker.

Sunderland, though, were back in the game in the 73rd minute

when Gardner, who returned from suspension as a replacement for

Cattermole, hit a free-kick and saw it deflect off the wall to beat

Myhill.

The strike lifted Sunderland’s spirits but it was short-lived as

substitute Lukaku’s 81st minute penalty, after Liam Ridgewell had

gone down somewhat softly under a challenge from Adam Johnson, and

Fortune’s injury-time goal sandwiched Sessegnon’s close-range

finish at a corner.

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Sunderland

Team Statistics

West Bromwich Albion

2 Goals 4
0 1st Half Goals 2
10 Shots on Target 6
7 Shots off Target 6
3 Blocked Shots 2
7 Corners 2
12 Fouls 16
2 Offsides 1
2 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
83.4 Passing Success 83.4
17 Tackles 20
70.6 Tackles Success 65
49 Possession 51
49.5 Territorial Advantage 50.5
428 Total Passes 469
34 Total Crosses 12
140 Lost Balls 137
49 Recoveries 58
48.6 1st Half Poss. 51.4
47 2nd Half Poss. 53