Defoe scores in rare Sunderland win

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Published: Saturday 31st January 2015 by The News Editor

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Jermain Defoe’s first goal for Sunderland helped to secure just a second home win of the Barclays Premier League season for a delighted Gus Poyet.

The January signing struck from close range 34 minutes into the game to leave visitors Burnley, who were already trailing to Connor Wickham’s 20th-minute header, with a mountain to climb, and it proved to be one they were incapable of scaling as the Black Cats cruised to a 2-0 victory.

There were boos from the home fans at the Stadium of Light a week ago after Poyet’s men limped to a 0-0 FA Cup fourth round draw with Sky Bet Championship Fulham which left their Uruguayan head coach pleading for patience.

However, the bulk of the 44,022 who turned up on Saturday afternoon left more than satisfied with a dominant performance and a win – their only other three-point haul on home soil in 12 attempts came against Stoke on October 4 – which eased the club’s fears of being dragged into another survival battle.

That, however, remains a very real possibility for the Clarets, who have now tasted victory only once in seven league outings and never really looked like addressing that run on Wearside a day after moving to deny that star striker Danny Ings could move to Liverpool and be loaned back to them ahead of Monday’s transfer deadline.

Poyet abandoned the three-man defence he had employed in a bid to provide Defoe with support, reverting instead to a back four protected by holding midfielder Liam Bridcutt and asking Adam Johnson, Sebastian Larsson and Jordi Gomez to line up behind the two frontmen.

The ploy was to prove hugely successful with the security provided by Bridcutt allowing full-backs Anthony Reveillere and Patrick van Aanholt to get forward at regular intervals, and to good effect.

However, the home side were fortunate not to be behind within 18 minutes when Ashley Barnes climbed to meet a David Jones free-kick, only to head wastefully wide from close range.

But other than that, and a speculative long-range effort which saw goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon collide with the post as he fielded it, the visitors produced little of note, and Sunderland gradually established a momentum which ultimately proved irresistible.

They broke the deadlock with 20 minutes gone when Larsson slid the ball inside full-back Ben Mee for Reveillere to cross to the far post, where Wickham rose unopposed to plant a firm header past keeper Tom Heaton.

Wickham, who has played much of his football on Wearside out of position on the left side of midfield, was clearly relishing a more orthodox striking role, although it was his sidekick who extended the lead 11 minutes before the break.

Johnson picked out Gomez with a sweet cross-field pass and the former Wigan man in turn split the Burnley defence to put Van Aanholt in with Defoe responding in predatory fashion to dispatch the Dutchman’s pull-back.

A similar combination within two minutes of the restart very nearly killed the game off with Johnson picking out Van Aanholt and Defoe shooting straight at the keeper from the defender’s cross.

The game rather sipped into a lull after the initial flurry at the beginning of the half with Burnley enjoying a greater share of the possession, although they gradually started to pin their hosts back and Barnes saw a 58th-minute attempt from Ings’ lay-off deflected wide before Scott Arfield blazed across the face of goal.

Sean Dyche, who had fielded the same starting XI for the ninth successive league game, replaced George Boyd and Ings with Ross Wallace and Lukas Jutkiewicz in the search for inspiration, but Larsson went close to cementing victory for Sunderland with a 75th-minute free-kick which curled just over Heaton’s crossbar.

Poyet decided it was a case of job done for Defoe and Wickham with 15 minutes remaining when he replaced them with Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham with the points safely banked.

Published: Saturday 31st January 2015 by The News Editor

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