Gyan brace puts 10-man Stoke to sword

The Ghana international struck after nine minutes and, after Steed

Malbranque had missed a first-half penalty, added a second four

minutes from time to help ease the pain of last weekend’s 5-1

humiliation by Newcastle. But in the meantime, Stoke were denied

what they felt was a certain penalty for handball after Lee

Cattermole smuggled Kenwyne Jones’ header off the line and then had

skipper Ryan Shawcross sent off for two bookable offences inside

three minutes. It was the visitors’ fifth successive defeat in all

competitions and fourth in the Premier League, and it proved the

perfect tonic for their hosts after a difficult week. The fall-out

from last Sunday’s derby drubbing at Newcastle has been

uncomfortable and intense despite heartfelt apologies from Steve

Bruce, chairman Niall Quinn and leading scorer Darren Bent, and the

Black Cats ran out knowing the repair job had to start in earnest

this afternoon. Having kept his big-money summer signing in reserve

for much of the time since his arrival, Bruce had revealed in

advance that Gyan would start today, although his hopes of playing

him alongside Bent were dashed by the England international’s

unavailability. However, it took the Ghanaian just nine minutes to

make his mark when he was presented with a tap-in after keeper

Asmir Begovic had parried Nedum Onuoha’s initial effort. The horror

of their black day on Tyneside seemed to have been exorcised as

Sunderland set about the task of rediscovering the form which had

seen them put together a seven-game unbeaten league run before the

debacle at St James’ Park. But where Newcastle had been clinical

six days ago when presented with the chances which enabled them to

establish a 3-0 half-time lead, the Black Cats were guilty of

squandering a glorious opportunity to put themselves firmly in the

driving seat. Malbranque’s intelligent pass put Gyan in on goal 17

minutes before the break and, in his attempts to get goal-side of

the striker, Jon Walters hauled him to the ground. Referee Martin

Atkinson had little hesitation in pointing to the spot and with

Bent absent, Malbranque stepped up to take the penalty. He

side-footed his shot low to Begovic’s left, but the keeper guessed

correctly and pulled off a vital save to keep the visitors in the

game. Shawcross made a good block to deny Malbranque with four

minutes of the half remaining, and Bruce’s men headed for the

dressing room hoping Malbranque’s miss did not come back to haunt

them. For their part, Stoke offered little as an attacking force

with Sunderland old boy Jones seeing too little of the ball to do

any damage, although keeper Simon Mignolet managed to block the

Trinidad and Tobago international’s 12th-minute toe-poke with his

foot. The visitors had made little use of their prowess from

set-plays, but almost did so to good effect within three minutes of

the restart. Robert Huth’s long throw was headed on by Walters at

the near post and Matthew Etherington arrived on cue to smash a

left-foot shot towards goal, were it was blocked bravely by Michael

Turner. Potters boss Tony Pulis made his move with 57 minutes gone

when he withdrew Walters and replaced him with Ricardo Fuller, who

joined Jones in attack and Tuncay Sanli slipped in behind them.

They went close with 61 minutes gone when keeper Mignolet failed to

collect Etherington’s left-wing corner and first Huth and then

Tuncay attempted to pounce on the loose ball, only for Phil

Bardsley to get there first. Sunderland defender John Mensah, who

had earlier twice gone down in apparent agony clutching his

shoulder, was replaced by Anton Ferdinand with 23 minutes remaining

as Bruce attempted to strengthen his rearguard for weathering an

expected late onslaught. But his side enjoyed a major escape with

19 minutes remaining when Jones’ header from an Etherington corner

looked to be creeping inside the far post until Cattermole bundled

it away with more than a hint of handball. The Black Cats skipper

hacked another Jones header off the line from the resulting corner

to deepen Stoke’s woes with the pressure mounting. Shawcross, who

had earlier been booked for a dreadful challenge on Danny Welbeck,

was cautioned again, perhaps harshly, for a trip on Gyan and was

sent off eight minutes from time. And the points were safe when

Gyan fired handsomely into the bottom corner from substitute Kieran

Richardson’s left-wing cross.