Sunderland rout Reading to aid under-fire O'Neill
SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Sunderland eased the pressure on under-fire manager Martin O’Neill with a crucial 3-0 win over fellow strugglers Reading on Tuesday.
Black Cats boss O’Neill has been subjected to growing criticism in recent weeks following a woeful run of results which saw his side slip into the relegation zone after Saturday’s 3-1 defeat against Chelsea.
But they finally ended a dismal run of just two Premier League wins in 23 attempts thanks to goals from James McClean, Steven Fletcher and Stephane Sessegnon at the Stadium of Light.
A first victory in five matches lifted Sunderland up to 15th place, while Reading remain second bottom of the table with just nine points from 16 matches.
O’Neill was adamant in the run up to the rearranged fixture that he remained the right man for the job, and with owner and chairman Ellis Short a supportive presence at the stadium before kick-off, the club was presenting a united front.
Sources on Wearside had insisted earlier that O’Neill was safe regardless of what happened this evening, but as the first half unfolded it swiftly became clear Reading were no threat to the former Aston Villa manager’s job security.
It took O’Neill’s side less than three minutes to take the lead when Royals keeper Adam Federici could only punch Adam Johnson’s inswinging corner to Republic of Ireland winger McClean and he fired home from the edge of the area.
Sebastian Larsson almost doubled Sunderland’s lead within two minutes as his shot was beaten away by Federici.
The hosts doubled their lead in the 28th minute when full-back Danny Rose surged forward and delivered a low cross to the near post, where Scotland striker Fletcher produced a deft flick past Federici.
Johnson, who had earlier been felled by Jobi McAnuff with a crude challenge, failed to reappear after the break and was replaced by Phil Bardsley. But Sunderland remained in control despite that loss.
Federici had to make saves from McClean and Craig Gardner to keep the score down, but deep into stoppage-time Sessegnon applied the finishing touch to Carlos Cuellar’s long ball to seal a rare rewarding night for O’Neill.