Sunderland 4-0 Stoke

By John SinnottBBC Sport
Craig Gardner scores Sunderland's third goal
Gardner scores his first goal for Sunderland

Sunderland picked up their first win of the season by inflicting a first defeat of the campaign on Stoke, who endured a defensive horror show.

Asmir Begovic fumbled Titus Bramble's shot as Stoke fell behind in the fifth minute and Sunderland were 3-0 ahead before the half-hour mark.

Jonathan Woodate headed into his own net before Craig Gardner's deflected shot looped over Begovic.

Sebastian Larsson's free-kick made it 4-0 on a day to forget for Stoke.

It was hard to believe that Sunderland had mustered just two points before Sunday's game, with the win moving Steve Bruce's side up from second-from-bottom to 12th in the table.

Bruce flummoxed by 'mass hysteria'

Bruce left out captain Lee Cattermole, though the feisty midfielder was scarcely missed, with David Vaughan impressing in his first Premier League start for Sunderland since his move from Blackpool.

There might have been elements of fortune in Sunderland's three first-half goals but the second and third were preceded by impressive passages of possession football.

Stoke, who started the day in fifth place, had the chance of moving into the top four had they won but their hopes of doing so quickly unravelled when Begovic fumbled Bramble's shot following a corner to give the Sunderland defender his first goal for the club.

Travelling is not an excuse - Pulis

The visitors had played Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League on Thursday in the Ukraine but Stoke can hardly plead tiredness given manager Tony Pulis made eight changes to his side for Sunday's game.

Perhaps of more importance was the lack of commitment and organisation that had been key to their recent 1-0 league win over Liverpool - instead mistake after mistake, with a smattering of misfortune here and there.

Woodgate was the next player to err as he attempted to stop Larsson's dipping pass reaching Niklas Bendtner only to head the ball past Begovic.

Misfortune rather than individual error led to Sunderland's third as Ryan Shawcross attempted to block Gardner's shot but only succeeding in diverting the ball past Stoke's Bosnian goalkeeper.

Stoke barely functioned as an attacking unit in that first-half shambles - with Peter Crouch particularly anonymous - though Sunderland goalkeeper Simon Mignolet did well to get a hand to Marc Wilson's free-kick, while Bramble also blocked a Cameron Jerome shot.

Pulis's side looked more threatening at the start of the second half but any hopes of a revival were extinguished when Larsson's cleverly flighted free-kick made it 4-0.

It might have been five had Bendtner got more of a connection to the ball following a cross from the left from Kieran Richardson.

Substitute Kenwyne Jones also might have done better in a late Stoke counterattack but he allowed Sunderland's defence to regroup and his shot was blocked by Bramble.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce: "If you get off to a good start in the Premier League and if you score first then 80% of the time you win.

"The mass hysteria that has engulfed us for the last two weeks after the defeat against Newcastle has surprised me. We finished 10th last season, but we lose against Newcastle and all hell breaks loose.

"Fans are fed by the media but when they are writing this nonsense - one had me gone in 48 hours - some of the journalists have to look at themselves.

"I've had stick all my life, but you don't become immune to the frenzy and nothing will derail me from the job of competing around the top 10 and given my squad and a bit of time I'm confident we can do that."

Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "We make no excuses about the effects of travelling to Kiev. When you think of what happened in South Wales and the deaths of the miners - it is ridiculous to make travelling an excuse.

"We live in a bubble. My players earn more in a week than those men working underground do in a year and we need to burst that bubble to see what is happening in the outside world.

"The first three goals - the corner was mishit for the first, the second was an own goal and the third was deflected - you wonder if it was going to be our day. It was disappointing and we have to move on.

"We've been successful and we have to handle that and not to look for excuses. This period is one of the great times at this football club, but you get times when things don't go well."

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