Sunderland defeated in front of manager-in-waiting Martin O’Neill, Stoke shock Goodison Park with win over Everton
Wolves 2 – 1 Sunderland
Sunderland’s season went from bad to worse as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat at fellow strugglers Wolves. The Black Cats were unable to draw inspiration from new boss Martin O’Neill’s attendance at Molinuex, and Steven Fletcher scored two late goals to plunge them further into relegation strife.
An excellent attack involving Stephane Sessegnon and Nicklas Bendtner lead to a blistering finish by Kieran Richardson to give Sunderland the lead.
The match then turned in a one minute spell 18 minutes from time, when Sunderland should have gone 2-0 up only for the scores to be levelled.
Sebastian Larsson, in his 200th league appearance, had his penalty saved by Wayne Hennessey and 25 seconds after this costly miss, Sunderland were made to pay, Fletcher losing his marker to head a Matt Jarvis cross powerfully past Keiren Westwood.
Then, with the away side wobbling, Wolves took the lead. Fletcher controlled a Jamie O’Hara pass to lash in a magnificent half volley. The goal came with a note of controversy, as Sunderland’s appeal for handball against O’Hara before the telling pass was waved away by referee Phil Dowd.
Wolves held on to record only a fourth league win this term, twice the number the Wearsider’s have managed, leaving O’Neill an arduous task to save Sunderland’s tempestuous season.
Everton 0 – 1 Stoke
Everton’s frustrating season continued as a first-half Robert Huth goal gave Stoke a first win at Goodison Park since 1981. The German defender profited from slack marking to divert a Dean Whitehead volley past Tim Howard in the Everton goal.
In a dour match, the Toffees barely looked like scoring the goals which would have allowed them to achieve three consecutive wins for the first time in three years, while a good week got better for the visitors after their midweek Europa League progression, and this was largely due to a resolute and determined defensive performance.
The Toffees’ inadequate final ball contributed to their impotence in attack, but they should have gone in front early on, Russian winger Dimitar Bilyaletdinov scuffing his volley horribly wide.
Stoke’s feared prowess from the set piece almost told soon after, Ryan Shotton nodding wide from a corner with the goal gaping.
Chances at either end for Marouane Fellaini and Peter Crouch did not trouble the scoreboard, and it took until the 82nd minute for the home side to instil some belated urgency into a scrappy game when Jack Rodwell’s goal bound shot was blocked by Andy Wilkinson.
But Stoke’s resilience in defence was a winning component sorely lacking from the first three months of their season, despite injuries suffered by Jonathan Woodgate and keeper Thomas Sorensen.
Before the match, Everton paid tribute to former player and fan Gary Speed who died last Sunday.